Comparative Adjectives

Often times in writing we wish to compare a noun to another noun. In order to do that we need to use a special form of adjective called a comparative adjective. Consider how the following sentence shows degrees of comparison.

Chicago is a big city, but Los Angeles is bigger than Chicago, and New York City is the biggest city in the United States.

Here the adjective bigger is used to compare Chicago and Los Angeles.

What Are Comparative Adjectives?

Comparative adjectives compare two things, people, or places unlike positive adjectives which stand alone and do not make comparisons between nouns. Frequently, the word than accompanies the comparative but not always.

Paul is taller than John.

The taller boy is Paul.

Forming Comparative Adjectives

In some cases the comparative is formed by adding the suffix –er to a one syllable adjective. Sometimes two syllable words become comparative with an – er suffix as well. At other times the words more or less precede a two or three syllable adjective to show degrees of comparison. However, it’s not acceptable to do both. In other words, it’s poor grammar to say Paul is more taller than John, or less taller than Michael.

Examples of Comparative Adjectives

The following are a few examples of how comparative adjectives are used in sentences.

Stella is a smaller dog than Bruno so she usually loses the fight over dog treats. (Stella is compared to Bruno.)
We ordered a bigger cake than usual in case unexpected guests came to the party. (The present cake is compared to the cake they usually order.)
Trey is more handsome than any movie star I’ve ever seen. (Trey is compared to a movie star.)
Susan is a kind person but she is less compassionate than Linda. (Susan is compared to Linda.)
The spring garden was lovelier than the fall display of flowers.
Today feels cooler than yesterday’s sweltering temperature.
Venus is brighter than Pluto.
Freda’s red hair is curlier than Beth’s.
I was more embarrassed than Carol about the test scores.

Here is a list of some common adjectives and their comparative forms:

angry – angrier anxious – more anxious
Beautiful – more beautiful brave – braver
bright – brighter broad – broader
calm –calmer cold – colder
cool – cooler curly – curlier
dirty – dirtier dry – drier
dull – duller earlier – earlier
embarrassed – more embarrassed evil – more evil
fine –finer friendly – friendlier
fresh – fresher happy – happier
hard – harder hot – hotter
immense – more immense long – longer
lovely – lovelier nervous – more nervous
odd- odder old – older
perfect – more perfect quick – quicker
rich – richer smart – smarter
sweet – sweeter thin – thinner

As you can see, not all common adjectives are made comparative by adding the suffix -er. The examples above show cases where you have to use the words more or less to create the comparative form. Now, there is just one more rule to consider…

Irregular Forms

Some adjectives have irregular forms in the comparative degree, meaning they don’t have a suffix –er nor do they need the words more or less. The comparative forms of these adjectives are totally different words.

good – better little – less
bad – worse far – farther
much – more

Recognizing and choosing comparative adjectives really isn’t difficult. Just remember they are used to compare two objects, people, or places, they are created by adding the suffix -er to the positive form of a one-syllable adjective or they are have the word more or less preceding them if the positive adjective is three syllables or more. By keeping these simple rules in mind – plus memorizing a few irregular forms – you can confidently use comparative adjectives in your writing.