Teaching Comparative and Superlative Adjectives

A common way to describe some thing or person is to compare their qualities with another. English does this by using three degrees of comparative adjectives. These are positive, comparative, and superlative. 

A Positive Adjective uses the basic form of the adjective to compare two equal noun / pronouns. The word 'as' is placed before and after the adjective.

  • Today is as hot as yesterday.
  • She is as pretty aher sister.
  • She is not as helpful as Todd.
  • Ann is as beautiful as her mother.
  • This is as important as that.

A Comparative Adjective compares two objects or people. One-syllable adjectives and two-syllable adjectives without a suffix add the suffix -er + than. Multisyllable and two-syllable adjectives with a suffix use "more/less adj. than".

  • 1 Syllable: Today is hotter than yesterday.
  • 2 Syllable (no suffix): She is prettier than her sister.
  • 2 Syllable (with suffix):  He is more helpful than Pam.
  • Multisyllable: She is more beautiful than her mother.
  • Negative: This is less important than that.

A Superlative Adjective compares three or more objects or people. One-syllable adjectives and two-syllables adjectives without a suffix use "the adj-est".  Multisyllable and two-syllable adjectives with a suffix use "the most/least adj".

  • 1 Syllable: Today is the hottest day of the month.
  • 2 Syllable (no suffix):  She is the prettiest girl in the class.
  • 2 Syllable (with suffix): Caleb is the most helpful of all.
  • Multisyllable: She is the most beautiful girl in her family.
  • Negative: This is the least important of all.

Spelling Rules for Adding the -er / -est Suffix

Follow these  the rules for adding a suffix beginning with a vowel.

1. If a word ends with two consonants, add the suffix t-er/-est.

  • Positive: smart, long
  • Comparative: smart + er = smarter, long + er = longer
  • Superlative: smart + est = smartest, long + est = longest

    2, 1-1-1 Rule: Double the final letter when the word has 1 syllable, 1 short vowel, and ends with 1 consonant. Add -er / -est. (x is not doubled)

    • Positive: hot, big
    • Comparative: hot + t + er = hotter, big + g + er = bigger
    • Superlative: hot + t + est = hottest, big + g + est = biggest

        3. If the word ends with Silent E, drop the e and add -er / -est.

        • Positive: nice, simple
        • Comparative: nice - e + er = nicer,  simple - e + er = simpler 
        • Superlative: nice - e + est = nicest, simple - e + est = simplest 

          4. If the word ends with vowel + Y,  add -er / -est.

          • Positive: slow, hollow
          • Comparative: slow + er = slower, hollow + er = hollower
          • Superlative: slow + est = slowest, hollow+ est = hollowest

            5. If the word ends with consonant + Y, change the Y to I and and -er / -est.

            • Positive: happy, pretty
            • Comparative: happy - y + i + er = happier, pretty - y + i + er = prettier
            • Superlative: happy - y + i + est = happiest, pretty - y + i + est = prettiest 

            Position of Comparative & Superlative Adjectives

            In addition to the examples given above, a comparative or superlative adjective can be placed before a noun or pronoun.

            • Comparative: I want a bigger piece of pizza. (than the previous one)
            • Comparative:  I prefer more expressive paintings.
            • Superlative: They have the most delicious meatloaf.
            • Superlative: We live in the largest house of the road.

            A comparative or superlative adjective can also come after a linking verb.

            • Comparative:The street is louder with the new factory.
            • Comparative: You should be more cautious.
            • Superlative: He is the tallest employee.
            • Superlative: Soccer is the greatest sport.

            Possessive adjectives may be used before comparative and superlative adjectives.

            • Comparative: Tom is my younger brother.
            • Comparative: It is her prettiest dress.
            • Superlative: It is his largest picture.
            • Superlative: It is their greatest accomplishment.

            Qualifying words as mucha lotfara bit/littleslightly are often added to a comparative adjective.

            • Comparative: It is much cheaper to travel by car that airplane.
            • Comparative: It is a bit colder that yesterday. 

            Two comparative adjectives can be contrasted by placing 'the' before them.

            • Comparative: The bigger, the better is my opinion.
            • Comparative: The happier you are, the better for your health.

            Two comparative adjective can be linked with 'and' to show an increasing quality.

            • It became easier and easier as we practiced.
            • We were more and more exhausted as we played the final game.
              The superlative adjective can be used without the attribute when it is understood.
              • Superlative: I am the oldest. (child in my family)
              • Superlative: George is the best speller. (in the class)

              Ordinal numbers may precede a superlative adjective.

              • Grand Rapids is the second largest city in Michigan.
              • Janet is the third fastest runner on the team.

              Participial Adjectives, present participles that function as adjectives, also can be used for comparisons in the positive, comparative and superlative degrees.

              • Positive: He is as worried as I am.
              • Comparative: He is more worried than I am.
              • Superlative: He is the most worried of us all.
              • Positive: The sequel is as exciting as the original movie.
              • Comparative: The sequel is more exciting than the original movie.
              • Superlative: It is the most exciting movie in the series.

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