by Liz Walter
We often need to compare one person or thing with another, and in this post I am going to look at how we do this. This is a fairly basic topic, but one where I find that intermediate students still often make mistakes.
We make comparatives by adding -er to the end of an adjective or by putting more in front of the adjective: Your hair is longer than mine. It is more stylish.
We make superlatives by adding -est to the end of an adjective and the in front of it or by putting the most in front of the adjective: Everest is the highest mountain in the world. It is the most beautiful place I have ever seen.
There are some fairly simple rules for which form to use. If the adjective has one syllable, use -er/the -est: a louder noise/the fastest car. And if the adjective has three or more syllables, use more/the most: a more interesting book/the most expensive toy.
Adjectives with two syllables are a little more complicated. If they end in -y, -er, -le or -ow, you can use either form: He’s feeling happier/more happy now. The narrowest/most narrow roads are in the city centre.
All other two-syllable adjectives can only use more/the most: She is more patient than my old teacher. That was the most boring movie I’ve ever seen.
So if you’re not sure, the safest thing is to use more/the most with all two-syllable words.
There are a few other things you need to remember. The most important one is: never use -er/the -est and more/the most together. You may sometimes hear native speakers do this, but it is not correct standard English.
Another important rule is that when one-syllable adjectives end with a single short vowel and a consonant, you need to double the consonant before -er/est: It is hotter today. It’s the biggest lake in the world.
Also, when adjectives end with the suffix -y, you need to change the y to an i before you add the -er/est endings: I was lonelier than before. It’s the funniest movie I’ve ever seen.
A common mistake for students of English is to write ‘then’ rather than ‘than’ in sentences such as: He is older than me. Make sure that you always write ‘than’ between two things or people you are comparing.
Finally, there are three very common adjectives that have very irregular comparative and superlative forms. They are good > better > best, bad > worse > worst and far > further > furthest: His laptop is better than mine. We climbed the furthest hill.