Comparative Degree

Comparative degree is the comparative form of an adjective or adverb. Comparative degree describes the degree or value by which someone or something has; it tells whether it is greater or less in extent than another. The types of comparative degree are positive, comparative, superlative and equal degree.


I. Positive Degree

The positive degree is the basic form of adjective. It does not inform the superior or inferior quality of something comparing to another. It tells something as it is.

Examples:

a. She is happy.
b. You are beautiful.
c. This test is very difficult to answer.

II. Comparative and Superlative Degree

A. Adjective

The comparative degree compares precisely two things. The comparative degree tells that something is greater or less in quality than something else. Meanwhile the superlative degree is used to compare three or more things. The superlative degree refers to the most or the least, the best or the worst of something among all others, etc.

The comparative degree is formed by adding suffix -er or more to the positive form of the adjective or adverb and is followed by the word than. Than is used as a subordinating conjunction to introduce the second element being compared. And the superlative degree is formed by adding suffix -est or most to the positive form of the adjective or adverb and is usually preceded by the.

To simplify the discussion, I’ll give the rule of forming comparative and superlative degree using -er and -est together since they are similar.
-Er and -Est

1. Add suffix er/est to one syllable adjectives.

Examples: tall (taller, tallest), small (smaller, smallest), big (bigger, biggest), young (younger, youngest), old (older, oldest), cheap (cheaper, cheapest), slow (slower, slowest), short (shorter, shortest), great (greater, greatest), large (larger, largest), wise (wiser, wisest), etc.

For the last two words, large and wise, since they end in e, you only need to add -r for the comparative and –st for the superlative.

Now let’s take a look at their use in sentences.

a. Jack is taller than Jim.
b. Jack is also taller than John.
c. Jack is the tallest among others.
d. My bag is smaller than yours.
e. My bag is also smaller than Marry’s.
f. My bag is the smallest of all.

Sentence a, b, d and e are the comparative degree and sentence c and f are the superlative degree.

2. Add suffix er/est to some two- syllable adjectives especially those ending in er, ow and y. For words end in y, change y to i then add er/est.

Those words among others are: clever (cleverer, cleverest), narrow (narrower, narrowest), happy (happier, happiest), pretty (prettier, prettiest), lovely (lovelier, loveliest), lucky (luckier luckiest), heavy (heavier heaviest), silly (sillier, silliest), ugly (uglier, ugliest), etc.

Use in sentences:

a. I guess you are cleverer than him.
b. My friend, Tim, is the cleverest man I have ever met all my life.
c. This doll is prettier than that one.
d. She behaves as if she were the prettiest girl in the world.

Sentence a and c are the comparative degree and sentence b and d are the superlative degree.

More/Most

1. More/most usually comes before adjectives of two syllables except those ending in er, ow and y.

Examples: selfish (more selfish, most selfish), fluent (more fluent, most fluent), useful (more useful, most useful), honest (more honest, most honest), etc.

Use in sentences:

a. I can feel that you are now is more selfish than ever before.
b. She is the most selfish person among her family members.
c. His English is more fluent than his sister.
d. Even his English is the most fluent in the class.

2. More/most is put before adjectives of three or more syllables.

Examples: difficult (more difficult, most difficult), intelligent (more intelligent, most intelligent), beautiful (more beautiful, most beautiful), comfortable (more comfortable, most comfortable), horrible (more horrible, most horrible), remarkable (more remarkable, most remarkable), expensive (more expensive, most expensive), important (more important, most important), interesting (more interesting, most interesting), diligent (more diligent, most diligent), careful (more careful, most careful), necessary (more necessary, most necessary), etc.

Use in sentences:

a. This test is more difficult than the previous.
b. The company is now facing the most difficult situation for the last 20 years.
c. Your words sound more horrible than the thunder.
d. His current boss seems the most horrible he has ever had.

3. More/most is put before adjectives which have the same form as the past or present participle (the number of the syllables is not considered).

Examples: hurt (more hurt, most hurt), worn (more worn, most worn), bored (more bored, most bored), frightened (more frightened, most frightened), tiring (more tiring, most tiring), exciting (more exciting, most exciting), interesting (more interesting, most interesting), etc.

Use in sentences:

a. According to my opinion cooking is more tiring than cleaning the house.
b. Monday is the most tiring day of all.
c. For her, reading a novel is more interesting than watching a movie.
d. Now she is reading the most interesting novel among all she has read.

B. Adverb

The rule of forming adverb into comparative and superlative degree is as follow:

1. Add suffix er/est to some adverbs which have the same form as the adjectives.

Those words are: hard (harder, hardest), fast (faster, fastest), late (later, latest), early (earlier, earliest), slow (slower, slowest), loud (louder, loudest).

Use in sentences:

a. For the second test, he studied harder than the first.
b. She worked the hardest among all to succeed in the show.
c. In the last racing, he drove faster than his toughest rival.
d. He even drove the fastest among all racers.

2. More/most usually comes before adverbs ending in ly.

Examples: slowly (more slowly, most slowly), loudly (more loudly, most loudly), quickly (more quickly, most quickly), gracefully (more gracefully, most gracefully), beautifully (more beautifully, most beautifully), etc.

Use in sentences:

a. Mom is now mixing the dough more quickly than before.
b. My team is dancing the most beautifully among all participants.

Note:

Irregular Adjectives and Adverb

Some adjectives and adverbs have irregular forms; they don’t follow the rules above. Their forms change significantly from one degree to the next.

Adjectives: good (better, best), bad (worse, worst), ill (worse, worst), well (healthy) (better, best), many (more, most), much (more, most), little (less, least), far (farther, farthest), far (further, furthest), old (elder, eldest).

Adverbs: well (better, best), badly (worse, worst), far (farther, farthest).

III. Equal Degree

When you want to state two things which have similar condition or qualilty, then the equal degree is the right way. The pattern is as + basic form of adjective/adverb + as.

Examples:

a. You are as beautiful as my sister.
b. He is as young as I am.
c. She danced as beautifully as a professional dancer.

Note:

1. Absolute Adjectives

Actually most adjectives can be compared but there are some cannot due to their meanings. This kind of adjective is called absolute adjective. They are: absolute, blind, perfect, dead, double, essential, fatal, final, immortal, infinite, left, right, round, single, square, supreme, straight, unique, universal, vertical and wrong.

2. Null comparative

The null comparative is a comparative in which the starting point for comparison is not stated. These comparisons are frequently found in advertising.

For example, in typical assertions such as “our burgers have more flavor”, “our picture is sharper” or “50% more”, there is no mention of what it is they are comparing to. In some cases it is easy to infer what the missing element in a null comparative is. In other cases the speaker or writer has been deliberately vague in this regard, for example “Glasgow’s miles better”.(http://en.wikipedia.org)

Source:
1. Hayden, Pilgrim, Haggard. 1956. Mastering American English Grammar. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice – Hall, Inc.
2. http://en.wikipedia.org

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