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The Complete List of
English Spelling Rules

Lesson 14:
Comparative and Superlative Adjectives


In this series of lessons, you will learn useful spelling rules in English.

This lesson will give you helpful guidelines so that you know how to spell comparative and superlative adjectives in English.

a pirate writing on a piece of paper

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As you know, in order to form comparative and superlative adjectives in English, you need to change the adjective.

For shorter adjectives, you need to add -er to the end of the word to make a comparative or add -est to form a superlative.

For longer words, we add "more" before the adjective for the comparative form or "most" for the superlative.

1. Adding -er or -est to form a comparative

a father and son

Barry is taller than Eric. Eric is shorter than Barry.

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The words "tall" and "short" are adjectives. They describe Barry or Eric. Since both of these words are only one syllable, we simply add -er or -est to the end of the word to make comparatives.

One-syllable words that end in a double consonant (or two vowels and a single consonant) simply take the -er or -est at the end. Here are some examples:

Comparative Superlative  
longer longest
darker darkest
brighter brightest
quicker quickest
warmer warmest
colder coldest
older oldest
younger  youngest
stronger strongest
smarter smartest
weaker weakest
neater neatest
louder loudest


2. Adding -er or -est to a one-syllable adjective that ends in a single vowel and a single consonant

a man standing in the rain

Harold's clothes could not possibly be wetter!

When the adjective you want to make into a comparative or superlative is only one syllable long and ends in a single vowel and a single consonant, you must double the final consonant, then add -er or -est.

Here are some common examples:

Comparative Superlative   
bigger biggest
fatter fattest
hotter hottest
sadder saddest
madder   maddest
thinner thinnest


3. Adding -er or -est to an adjective that ends in Y

a man laughing

That was the funniest thing I have ever heard!

When the adjective ends in a y, you must change the y to an i, then add -er or -est to form the comparative or the superlative.

For example:

Comparative Superlative   
prettier prettiest
angrier angriest
happier happiest
busier busiest
lovelier loveliest
sillier silliest
sleepier sleepiest
thirstier thirstiest
uglier ugliest


4. Adding -er or -est to a one-syllable adjective that ends in E

a big cat

Wow, your cat is much larger than mine!

For adjectives that end in e, you must only add -r to make a comparative and -st to make a superlative.

Here are some common examples of these adjectives:

Comparative Superlative   
closer closest
wiser wisest
stranger strangest
huger hugest
ruder rudest
looser loosest
safer safest
cuter cutest
gentler gentlest
simpler simplest


5. Making comparatives or superlatives with adjectives that have two or more syllables

two women talking

Karen is the most honest person I know!

One-syllable adjectives in English follow the rules above to add -er or -est. Adjectives with three or more syllables add the word "more" before them to become comparatives, and "most" to become superlatives.

Most two-syllable adjectives will take "more" or "most," but if they end in -y, -er, -le, or -ow, they follow the rules above. 

Here are some examples:

Comparative Superlative   
more interesting most interesting
more complete most complete
more beautiful most beautiful
more important most important
more dangerous most dangerous
more colorful most colorful
more exciting most exciting
more complicated most complicated
more boring most boring


6. Irregular comparatives and superlatives

a dog sleeping with a pillow

Otis sleeps better with a pillow.

Finally, there are some very common adjectives that have irregular forms for their comparatives and superlatives.

Here are the most important ones for you to remember:

Adjective Comparative Superlative
good better best
bad worse worst
well better best
far farther /
further
farthest /
furthest

Review

So, let's review what we have learned about forming comparatives and superlatives in English:
  1. For one-syllable adjective, add -er (comparative) or -est (superlative) to the end of the adjective.

  2. If the one-syllable adjective ends in a single vowel and a single consonant, double the final consonant before adding -er or -est.

  3. For adjectives that end in -y, change the y to i, then add -er or -est.

  4. If the one-syllable consonant ends in -e, simply add -r or -st.

  5. For adjectives with two or more syllables, add "more" before the adjective to form a comparative, or "most" to form a superlative (unless the two-syllable adjective ends in -y, -le, -er, or -ow).

  6. Remember that there are some common irregular comparative and superlative adjectives.


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