Comparatives & Superlatives


1. Expressing Similarity

as ........ as ........ eg. as often as you like

not as (so) ........ as ........ eg. not as easy as I thought

Common Intensifiers

half – not nearly – not quite – hardly – nearly – almost – equally – twice – three times

eg. It was INTENSIFIER as hard as I'd thought.

2. Expressing Comparison

Higher Degree / more ........ (see point 6) eg. sooner / more quickly

Lower Degree

less ........ eg. less rapidly

Common Intensifiers

not any – slightly – a little – a bit – rather – a good deal – much – a lot – considerably – even –far

eg. It was INTENSIFIER harder than I'd thought.

eg. It was INTENSIFIER more difficult than I'd thought.

eg. It was INTENSIFIER less complicated than I expected.

3. Expressing Superlatives

Highest Degree

...est / most ........ (see point 6) eg. tallest / most massive

Lowest Degree

least ........ eg. least usual

Common Intensifiers

hardly – literally – clearly – obviously – by far

eg. It was INTENSIFIER the easiest way.

eg. It was INTENSIFIER the most honorable way.

eg. It was INTENSIFIER the least dangerous way.

4. Expressing Proportional Increase

Using comparative forms, follow one of three patterns:

comp. , comp. eg. The sooner, the better.

comp. + verb , comp. eg. The sooner she comes, the better.

comp. + verb , comp. + verb eg. The sooner she comes, the better I'll feel

5. Expressing Increasing Intensity and eg. It's getting hotter and hotter in here.

more ........ and more ........ eg. The row turned more and more personal.

less ........ and less ........ eg. His comments got less and less polite.

increasingly more/less ........ eg. The film became increasingly more boring.

ever eg. His reflexes became ever slower.

ever more/less ........ eg. Jobs are ever more scarce in the region.

NB 'ever' tends to have a more literary tone to it.

6. Formation of Comparatives and Superlatives

One-syllable adjectives/adverbs:

- Add (comparative form) / ...est (superlative form)

eg. nice/nicer/nicest fast/faster/fastest dry/drier/driest

NB final single consonant is doubled (eg. big/bigger thin/thinner)

Two-syllable adjectives/adverbs:

- Most adjectives or adverbs of five letters or less add / ...est

eg. happy/happier/happiest quiet/quieter/quietest early/earlier/earliest

- Most adjectives or adverbs of six letters or more use more ........ / most .......

eg. absurd/more absurd/most absurd frequent/more frequent/most frequent

Three-or-more-syllable adjectives/adverbs use more ........ / most ........

eg. diligent/more diligent/most diligent effective/more effective/most effective

7. Irregular Comparatives and Superlatives

good/well – better – best

bad/ill – worse – worst

far – farther – farthest (relating to distances)

far – further – furthest (metaphorical sense, eg. further education)

old – older – oldest (general use)

old – elder – eldest (for family members)

much – more – most

many – more – most

little – less – least

real – more real – most real

right – more right – most right

wrong – more wrong – most wrong

upper eg. the upper layer

lower eg. the lower house

latter eg. the latter point

former eg. the former address

inner eg. the inner ear

outer eg. the outer garments

lesser eg. the lesser evil

8. Comparing Statistics - Useful Expressions

one in three (33%) one in four (25%) one in ten (10%) (NB Only used with 'one')

one out of (every) five (20%) two out of three (66%) nine out of ten (90%)

half / a third / a quarter (of people interviewed) said that ...

half as many ... twice as many ... three times as many ...

no less than (one in three) ... no fewer than (sixty percent) ...

as against (eg. The company's market share was 20% as against 26% last year.)

compared to (eg. She can be compared to some of the greatest actresses of our time.)

compared with (eg. I spent much more on my holidays this year compared with last year.)

in comparison to (eg. His ideas should only be seen in comparison to those of his peers'.)

in comparison with (eg. In comparison with your previous efforts, this is a masterpiece.)

[NB for 'compared'/'comparison', 'to' stresses similarity, 'with' stresses difference]

© Nigel J. Ross, 2003




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