Vocabulary Practice
April 11, 2011
The TIES Gazette – Edition 4
May 5, 2011

Comparatives and Superlatives

There are four main word forms in English: Adjectives NounsVerbs Adverbs. Each word form then has other ‘types’ within that form. For example:

Adjectives

  • Opinion Adjectives (What you think about something)
    • For example, Beautiful scenery
  • Fact Adjectives (Definitely true about something)
    • Size
    • Age
    • Shape/Style
    • Colour/Pattern
    • Origin/Nationality
    • Material
  • Purpose Adjectives (The purpose for something – usually ‘ing’)
    • For example, Running shoes

There are quite a few other adjectival forms, but we will save them for another day and another blog entry. This entry is about two very specific types of adjectives which are: Comparatives and Superlatives.

Comparatives

Comparative adjectives are used in English when we want to compare only two different things. They are very common and are therefore very useful to learn and to use ‘correctly’. I say ‘correctly’, because a lot of students know about and have some experience with comparatives, however, I am quite often ‘fixing’ them even with my advanced students.

First you must ask yourself, ‘How many things am I comparing?‘ If you are comparing only two things then you must use a comparative, if it’s three of more, then it must be a superlative (see below).

You then need to decide if the Adjective you are using is either one syllable, two syllables ending in ‘y’, or 2 or more syllables. The forms for each type are in the image.

Superlatives

Superlative adjectives are used in English when we want to compare three or more different things. Just like comparative adjectives, superlatives are very common in English and are an area where students make small ‘silly’ mistakes.

First you must ask yourself, ‘How many things am I comparing?‘ If you are comparing only two things then you must use a comparative (see above), if it’s three of more, then it must be a superlative.

You then need to decide if the Adjective you are using is either one syllable, two syllables ending in ‘y’, or 2 or more syllables. The forms for each type are in the image.

Some common mistakes with comparatives and superlatives…

Try to avoid saying ‘more’ or ‘most’ every time you use comparatives or superlatives. Although native English speakers will understand what you are saying it is a bad habit to get into and you will sound much more fluent if you don’t make this mistake. We also have some irregular adjectives which are:

Good          Better               Best

Bad             Worse               Worst

Far             Further            Furthest

Much         More                 the Most

Little          Less                  the Least

I am in the process of designing some online flash applications to practice comparatives and superlatives, so please check back in the future to do some FREE online practice and don’t forget to let your friends know about the TIES Study English Blog.

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