Often, you'll want to compare things rather than just describe them. Not to worry; English has this covered. Adjectives and adverbs have different forms to show degrees of comparison. We even have a name for each of these forms of degree: positive, comparative, and superlative. Let's meet the whole gang.
What do these three words have in common: childish, yellowish, and flowery? They are all adjectives created from nouns. Creating adjectives from nouns: another hobby you might want to consider.
The following table shows the three degrees of comparison with some sample adjectives and adverbs.
|Part of Speech||Positive||Comparative||Superlative|
|Adverb||highly||more highly||most highly|
|Adverb||widely||more widely||most widely|
|Adverb||easily||more easily||most easily|
The positive degree is the base form of the adjective or adverb. It does not show comparison. The comparative degree compares two things; the superlative degree compares three or more things.
As you can see from this table, the comparative and superlative degrees of adjectives and adverbs are formed differently. Here's how:
Less and least can also be used to form the comparative and superlative degrees of most adjectives and adverbs, as in less attractive and least attractive.
Less and fewer cannot be interchanged. Less refers to amounts that form a whole or can't be counted (less money, less filling), while fewer refers to items that can be counted (fewer coins, fewer calories).
Now that you know how to form comparisons with adjectives and adverbs, follow these guidelines to make these comparisons correct.
Irregular adjective/adverb use, like much of life, is the result of accidents. In this case, it arose from the way the language formed. Good, for instance, has Indo-European roots; worse and worst, in contrast, originated in Old English. So here's one reason English isn't consistent, Mouseketeers.
Of course, life can't be that easy in the land of adjectives and adverbs. And so it isn't. A few adjectives and adverbs don't follow these rules. They sneer at them, going their own separate ways. Like errant congressmen, there's just no predicting what these adjectives and adverbs will do next.
The following table shows the most common irregular adjectives and adverbs. Tap the noggin and memorize these forms.
|late||later||later or latest|
In most cases, the comparative and superlative degree shouldn't present any more difficulty than doing pick-up brain surgery with a screw driver or dealing with your two-year-old. Upon occasion, however, the way the sentence is phrased may make your comparison unclear. You balance your tires and your checkbook, so balance your sentences. Here's how:
Another common error is illogical comparisons. Why bother creating new illogical situations, when the world is filled with existing ones that fit the bill so nicely?
Because the thing you're comparing is part of a group, you have to differentiate it from the group by using the word other or else before you can set it apart in a comparison. Therefore, to avoid adding to the world's existing stock of stupidity, when you compare one item in a group with the rest of the group, be sure to include the word other or else. Then, your comparison will make sense.
Dopey: The Godfather was greater than any modern American movie.
Sensible: The Godfather was greater than any other modern American movie.
Dopey: Francis Ford Coppola won more awards than anyone at the ceremony.
Sensible: Francis Ford Coppola won more awards than anyone else at the ceremony.
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style © 2003 by Laurie E. Rozakis, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.