The comparative as a degree of comparison

(Using the comparative of adjectives and adverbs)

Table of contents – comparative

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Formation and use of the comparative
  2. Particularities of the comparative
  3. Further explanations and exercises

How is the comparative formed and used?

In English grammar, there are three levels or degrees when comparing adjectives and adverbs. The comparative, in particular, represents the second degree. It usually serves to compare things or persons with each other on the one hand and to express inequality (so to make differences clear) on the other hand. Therefore, it is frequently part of phrases that include ‘than’ for making a comparison.

  • The comparative is formed either by prefixing ‘more’ (valid for some disyllabic and tri- and polysyllabic adjectives and almost all adverbs) or by appending ‘-er’ (for monosyllabic and most disyllabic adjectives and few adverbs) to the respective basic form. In detail:
    • Formation of the comparative with the help of ‘more’ (and in very many cases in combination with ‘than’) …
      • … of adjectives:
        • “Mr Miller’s house was more expensive than his neighbour’s.”
        • “He says, bungee jumping is more exciting than biking.”
      • … of adverbs:
        • “Could you please speak a bit more slowly?”
        • “The road is dangerous. You need to drive more carefully.”
    • And the construction of the second degree (comparative) by appending ‘-er’ …
      • … to adjectives:
        • “The new museum is bigger than the old one.”
        • “Please, be a bit nicer.”
      • … to adverbs, whereby it must be noted that only adverbs with special forms (that means those that do not end in ‘-ly’) can be formed by appending the suffix ‘-er’. For more details, see the comparison of English adverbs:
        • “The short athlete runs faster than the tall one.”
        • “Mary works a lot harder than Sarah.”

What particularities can the comparative form have?

Besides constructing the comparative in a regular way with ‘-er’ or ‘more’, some adjectives deviate from this and have special forms in comparison. These forms need to be learned, as they do not follow any rule and are often unique. For example:

  • “Your suggestion is better than Peter’s.”
    • The adjective ‘better’ is the comparative of ‘good’ (which is the positive or first level).
  • Incorrect: “Your suggestion is more better than Peter’s.”
    • This combination would be a double comparison and, therefore, wrong.

Information: For details about further irregular characteristics, have a look at adjectives with particular forms.

Further explanations relating to the ‘Comparative as a degree of comparison’

The following explanations are related to the topic ‘Comparative of adjectives and adverbs in English grammar’ and could also be helpful: