When it comes to comparing two things, comparative adjectives like better are better than other adjectives. For comparisons, they’re just more useful than adjectives in their regular form.
The real question is how to use comparative adjectives. In this guide, we discuss everything you need to know about comparative adjectives, from the spelling rules, to when to use more, to clearing up the comparative-versus-superlative-adjectives confusion. But first let’s give a more detailed answer to the question, “What are comparative adjectives?”
What are comparative adjectives?
Comparative adjectives are a form adjectives take when comparing two (and only two) things, such as “she is older than him” or “he is more serious than them.” For most short adjectives, we simply add the suffix -er at the end of the word, while for longer adjectives we usually add the adverb more directly before the word.
In theory, any adjective can become a comparative adjective, as long as you follow the rules. However, some words have meanings that can’t be compared, such as unique—something cannot be more or less unique than something else.
How to use comparative adjectives in a sentence
The easiest way to use comparative adjectives in a sentence is this:
[Noun A] + [be or another linking verb] + [comparative adjective] + than + [Noun B]
In this construction, Noun A has more of the comparative adjective’s trait than Noun B.
The movie was more boring than the book.
She seems nicer than her sister.
This is the simplest way to use comparative adjectives, but it’s not the only way. Because comparative adjectives are still adjectives, you can use them to form adjective phrases.
Stronger than a bull, Hercules easily completed his twelve tasks.
You don’t always have to mention both things in a comparison. Sometimes one is already mentioned, so your audience already knows what you’re talking about. In this case, the second thing is assumed or understood, so you don’t need to repeat it.
My laptop weighs more than a brick! I need a newer one.
If one of the things is assumed and not mentioned, you don’t need the word than.
When to use more with comparative adjectives
Earlier we said that “short” adjectives use the suffix –er and “long” adjectives use the word more before them. That is a little vague, so here are the specific adjectives that use more:
- All adjectives with three or more syllables
- Adjectives with two syllables except those that end in –er, –ow, –le, or –y
So if an adjective has two or more syllables, it will probably use more. The only exceptions are two-syllable adjectives with the endings –er, –ow, –le, and –y—those use special spelling rules with the suffix –er, explained below.
Also note that using more with comparative adjectives is similar to using less. You can add less before any adjective without having to change the spelling.
5 spelling rules for forming comparative adjectives
1 One-syllable adjectives
For most adjectives with one syllable, simply add the suffix –er at the end of the word without changing the spelling.
smart -> smarter
kind -> kinder
The exceptions are one-syllable adjectives that end in –e or a consonant-vowel-consonant, which have different rules, explained below.
2 One-syllable adjectives ending in –e
If a one-syllable adjective already ends in -e, just add an -r at the end. You don’t need to add another e.
large -> larger
free -> freer
3 One-syllable adjectives ending in consonant-vowel-consonant
Be careful of one-syllable adjectives with the last three letters in a consonant-vowel-consonant format, like big or thin. For these, you have to double the last consonant and then add –er.
big -> bigger
thin -> thinner
4 One- or two-syllable adjectives ending in –y
If an adjective with either one or two syllables ends in a -y, first change the y into an i and then add –er.
dry -> drier
likely -> likelier
5 Two-syllable adjectives ending in –er, –ow, or –le
If an adjective with two syllables ends with -er (like bitter) or –ow (like narrow), you can just add –er to the end without changing the spelling (bitterer or narrower). If a two-syllable adjective ends in –le, you can just add –r without adding a second e.
clever -> cleverer
shallow -> shallower
simple -> simpler
Irregular comparative adjectives
Not all adjectives follow the rules above. Try memorizing these irregular comparative adjectives so you always know the right word to use.
|Standard form||Comparative form|
|far||farther or further|
|fun||funner or more fun|
Note that fun has two options. There’s a lot of confusion about funner vs. more fun, but the truth is that both are perfectly acceptable in English. However, most modern English speakers prefer more fun.
Comparative vs. superlative adjectives
Comparative adjectives are quite similar to superlative adjectives, with comparatives using the suffix –er or the adverb more, and superlatives using the suffix –est or the adverb most.
In grammar, comparatives are often paired with superlatives because they are both used in comparisons and follow many of the same spelling rules, such as changing the y to an i at the end of a one- or two-syllable adjective.
Let’s clear up the confusion between comparative vs. superlative adjectives. The difference between comparative and superlative adjectives is the number of things being compared.
- If you’re comparing only two things, use comparative adjectives.
- If you’re comparing three or more things, including everything in a group, use superlative adjectives.
Just look at the use of both comparative and superlative adjectives in this example:
I am stronger than my brother, but the strongest person in the family is grandma!
Comparative adjectives FAQs
What is a comparative adjective?
Comparative adjectives are a form adjectives take when comparing two (and only two) things, such as “she is older than him” or “he is more serious than her.” For most short adjectives, we simply add the suffix -er at the end of the word, while for longer adjectives we usually add the adverb more directly before the word.
What are some examples of comparative adjectives?
Some common examples of comparative adjectives, both regular and irregular, include:
- more important
- more confident
How is a superlative adjective different from a comparative adjective?
The difference between comparative adjectives and superlative adjectives is the number of things in the comparison. For comparing only two things, use comparative adjectives. For comparing three or more things, including everything in a group, use superlative adjectives.