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Comparatives and Superlatives

This entry is part 47 of 55 in the series A2 - ELEMENTARY

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Hello! Today I am going to explain how to use Comparative and Superlative Adjectives, and then you can practise with some questions.

First, the most basic question –

What’s the difference between Comparative and Superlative?

A Comparative is a comparison between (usually) two things or people:
I am taller than my brothers = Soy más alto que mis hermanos
English is easier than Spanish = El Inglés es más fácil que el Español
You don’t have to include ‘than…’ when the comparison is obvious:
It’s colder today, isn’t it? (than yesterday) = Hace más más frio hoy, verdad? (que ayer)

A Superlative is not a Comparison. It is the first/most… of its category:
Jane is the fastest girl in her class = Jane es la chica más rápida de la clase
The highest mountain is the Everest = La montaña más alta es el Everest
That film was the most frightening I’ve ever seen! = Esa peli fue la más terrorífica que haya visto jamás!

That’s easy!

No, it isn’t. In fact, it’s quite complicated. The change from a normal adjective (grande) to a comparative (más grande que..) or a superlative (el más grande) depends on the word. Look at these examples:

BIG – BIGGER (than..) – (the) BIGGEST
EASY – EASIER (than..) – (the) EASIEST
EXPENSIVE – MORE EXPENSIVE (than..) – (the) MOST EXPENSIVE

It’s much more complicated in English than in Spanish – That’s why you’re reading this!

The best way to understand this is by separating the adjectives into three sections. Now we are going to look at these one by one:

1 Syllable / Ends with ‘….Y’

  • Adjectives with one syllable (sílaba)

Tall                 Taller (than…)             The Tallest
Small             Smaller (than…)         The Smallest
Few                Fewer (than…)            The Fewest
Short             Shorter (than…)          The Shortest
Near              Nearer (than…)              The Nearest
Nice               Nicer (than…)              The Nicest
Black             Blacker (than…)         The Blackest
Cheap           Cheaper (than…)         The Cheapest
Young           Younger (than…)        The Youngest

  • Adjectives with one syllable, repeating a letter

There is a rule, but it’s too complicated to remember*. Just look at these words and get the idea.

Fat                 Fatter (than…)             The Fattest
Big                 Bigger (than…)             The Biggest
Thin              Thinner (than…)         The Thinnest
Big                 Bigger (than…)             The Biggest
Wet               Wetter (than…)            The Wettest
Sad                Sadder (than…)            The Saddest
Red               Redder (than…)            The Reddest
Hot               Hotter (than…)              The Hottest

*Do you really want to know the rule? You double the final letter of a one-syllable adjective ending in consonant + vowel + consonant, except when the adjective ends in -y or -w: Satisfied?
  • Adjectives ending with ‘…Y’

Basically the same rule. Just remember to change the ‘Y’ to ‘I’:

Easy             Easier (than…)              The Easiest
Naughty     Naughtier (than…)      The Naughtiest
Pretty          Prettier (than…)           The Prettiest
Funny         Funnier (than…)          The Funniest
Scary           Scarier (than…)             The Scariest
Silly              Sillier (than…)                The Silliest
Lazy              Lazier (than…)               The Laziest
Ugly              Uglier (than…)               The Ugliest

  • Exceptions!

How can you like English if you don’t like exceptions? These are one-syllable adjectives which do not follow the rule:

Wrong               More Wrong           The Most Wrong
Fun                     More Fun                 The Most Fun
Ill                         More Ill                     The Most Ill
Like*                  More Like                The Most Like
* =

como: In my family, I am the most like my father.

Bored*              More Bored              The Most Bored
Tired*               More Tired                The Most Tired
*

Adjectives which come from (are participles of) Verbs

Two or More Syllables

Expensive                    More Expensive            The Most Expensive
Modern                        More Modern                 The Most Modern
Frightening                More Frightening         The Most Frightening
Beautiful                      More Beautiful               The Most Beautiful
Disgusting                   More Disgusting           The Most Disgusting
Interested                   More Interested            The Most Interested
Famous                        More Famous                 The Most Famous
Dangerous                  More Dangerous           The Most Dangerous

Easy! Remember the exceptions. Words with 2 syllables that do not follow the rule:

Clever                        Cleverer                 The Cleverest
Narrow                     Narrower              The Narrowest
Gentle                       Gentler                    The Gentlest

Irregular Adjectives

These do not follow the rules above:

Good                   Better (than..)            The Best
Bad                      Worse**                        The Worst**
Little*                Less                                 The Least
Far                      Further                          The Furthest

(It is possible – but not very common – to say Farther / Farthest)
* = ‘poco’. If you want ‘pequeño’, use ‘small’.

** Have you seen ‘Badder’ and ‘Baddest’? You can hear them in songs and sometimes when people talk.
What’s the difference between these two sentences?
A) Brian is the worst Maths student.
B) Brian is the baddest student.
ANSWER: A) means that he doesn’t understand, and B) that he is very naughty
ANSWER: A) is correct, and B) is incorrect. If you want to use this in an exam, wait 30 years!

Notes

These two structures are always the same. It makes no difference if the words has one syllable or three:

As …….. as = Tan ……como
A hippo is as dangerous as a lion.

Less …… / The least…..
It is less common to see a snow leopard.

Look at these two sentences:
I’m less tall than my son.
I’m not as tall as my son.

These sentences have the same meaning, but the second is much more common. It is not usual to hear ‘less… than’.

There is another structure which is connected:
The older you are, the more tolerant you become = Cuanto más mayor eres, más tolerante te haces
If you want to know more about this, go to the Mini-class here!

Last note: These are the rules. In spoken English it is far more flexible: Cleverer / More Clever – The Loveliest / The Most Lovely

Summary (then the Questions)

Adjective

Comparative

Superlative

1 Syllable

TALL

TALLER than

the TALLEST

………Y

EASY

EASIER than

the EASIEST

2+ Syllables

MODERN

MORE MODERN than

the MOST MODERN

Irregular

GOOD

BAD

BETTER than

WORSE than

the BEST

the WORST

Exercises..

Press ‘Start’ and Answer the questions. You can also try these mini-classes:

Comparative and Superlative Opposites
Superlative Quiz
Dubai: Comparatives and Superlatives

…o seguir practicando con la unidad de Comparativos

Now answer these questions: USE CAPITAL LETTERS, and write the same or opposite meaning, as indicated. You can use 1, 2 or 3 words.

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