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Unit 35 Comparison: basic forms

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Main points

* You add `-er’ for the comparative and `-est’ for the superlative of one-syllable adjectives and adverbs.

* You use `-er’ and `-est’ with some two-syllable adjectives.

* You use `more’ for the comparative and `most’ for the superlative of most two-syllable adjectives, all longer adjectives, and adverbs ending in `-ly’.

* Some common adjectives and adverbs have irregular forms.

1 You add `-er’ for the comparative form and `-est’ for the superlative form of one-syllable adjectives and adverbs. If they end in `-e’, you add `-r’ and `-st’.

cheap* cheaper* cheapest
safe* safer* safest

closecoldfasthardlargelightnice
poorquickroughsmallweakwideyoung

They worked harder.
I’ve found a nicer hotel.

If they end in a single vowel and consonant (except `-w’), double the consonant.

big* bigger* biggest

fathotsadthinwet

The day grew hotter.
Henry was the biggest of them.

2 With two-syllable adjectives and adverbs ending in a consonant and `-y’, you change the `-y’ to `-i’ and add `-er’ and `-est’.

happy* happier* happiest

angrybusydirtyeasyfriendly
funnyheavyluckysillytiny

It couldn’t be easier.
That is the funniest bit of the film.

3 You use `more’ for the comparative and `most’ for the superlative of most two-syllable adjectives, all longer adjectives, and adverbs ending in `-ly’.

careful* more careful* most careful
beautiful* more beautiful* most beautiful
seriously* more seriously* most seriously

Be more careful next time.
They are the most beautiful gardens in the world.
It affected Clive most seriously.

Note that for `early’ as an adjective or adverb, you use `earlier’ and `earliest’, not `more’ and `most’.

4 With some common two-syllable adjectives and adverbs you can either add `-er’ and `-est’, or use `more’ and `most’.

commongentlelikelypleasantsimple
cruelhandsomenarrowpolitestupid

Note that `clever’ and `quiet’ only add `-er’ and `-est’.
It was quieter outside.
He was the cleverest man I ever knew.

5 You normally use `the’ with superlative adjectives in front of a noun, but you can omit `the’ after a link verb.
It was the happiest day of my life.
I was happiest when I was on my own.

WARNING: When `most’ is used without `the’ in front of adjectives and adverbs, it often means almost the same as `very’.

This book was most interesting.
I object most strongly.

6 A few common adjectives and adverbs have irregular comparative and superlative forms.

good/well* better* best
bad/badly* worse* worst
far* farther/further* farthest/furthest
old* older/elder* oldest/eldest

She would ask him when she knew him better.
She sat near the furthest window.

Note that you use `elder’ or `eldest’ to say which brother, sister, or child in a family you mean.
Our eldest daughter couldn’t come.

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