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Adjectives and Adverbs: Forms for Comparison

A common error in using adjectives and adverbs arises from using the wrong form for comparison.

Incorrect: She is the poorest of the two women.

Correct:
She is poor. (positive form)
She is the poorer of the two women. (comparative form)
She is the poorest of them all. (superlative form)

Many one- and two-syllable adjectives and one-syllable adverbs may be compared by adding -er or -est.

Examples:
sweet, sweeter, sweetest
high, higher, highest
silly, sillier, silliest
big, bigger, biggest

Usually, with words of three or more syllables, don’t add -er or -est. Use more or most in front of the words. Never use both the -er or -est suffix and more or most.

Example: efficient, more efficient, most efficient

Incorrect: He is more efficienter at using the PowerPoint program than his boss is.

Correct: He is more efficient at using the PowerPoint program than his boss is.

Some words have irregular comparative and superlative forms.

Examples:
bad, worse, worst
good, better, best

Incorrect: She is the best candidate of the two for the job.

Correct: She is the better candidate of the two for the job.

When comparing most -ly adverbs, keep the -ly and add more or most.

Incorrect: She spoke quicker than he did.

Correct: She spoke quickly.
She spoke more quickly than he did.

Incorrect: Talk quieter.

Correct: Talk quietly.
Talk more quietly.

 

Pop Quiz
Are these sentences correct or incorrect?

1. She is even curiouser than her little brother.
2. I can run more faster than you can.
3. I can run more quickly than you can.
4. My brother is the youngest of the two of us.
5. She is the best of the two sisters at braiding hair.

 

Pop Quiz Answers

1. Incorrect (more curious)
2. Incorrect (faster)
3. Correct
4. Incorrect (younger)
5. Incorrect (better)

Posted on Sunday, April 1, 2007, at 3:45 am


27 Comments

27 Responses to “Adjectives and Adverbs: Forms for Comparison”

  1. adi says:

    hello Jane,
    First of all let me thank you very much for your amazing grammar blog. I discovered it recently and it halps me a lot. I am currently in the process of improving my english grammar ( I am not a native speaker) and I can say your blog is a very useful tool for me. Searching through your archive i got the answer for most of my grammar dilemas.
    God bless you for this blog

  2. Jane says:

    Thank you, Adi. I’m so glad you find this useful.

  3. Jane says:

    I don’t understand how you can say that “quick” is an adverb. If I say, “I went for a quick jog,” “quick” is an adjective describing “jog.”

  4. J says:

    It’s in the American Heritage Dictionary:
    ADVERB: Inflected forms: quicker, quickest
    Quickly; promptly.

    And Merriam-Webster:
    Function: adverb
    : in a quick manner
    http://m-w.com/dictionary/quick

    So I don’t see what’s wrong with “She spoke quicker than he did.”

  5. Jane says:

    According to the American Heritage Dictionary, quick, quicker, and quickest are all adjectives. Note: “In speech, ‘quick’ is commonly used as an adverb in phrases such as ‘Come quick.’ In formal writing, however, ‘quickly’ is required.”
    The Random House Dictionary states pretty much the same thing.

  6. Jim says:

    1. on J’s 4/5 comments:
    “Merriam-Webster:
    Function: adverb
    : in a quick manner”

    This is a mistatement of fuction in the example! “Quick” modifies the noun “manner”; that makes it an adjective. (Why don’t we use “adnoun” instead?)

    2. citing common usage often means acceptance of a sub-group language, doesn’t it? For least pejoration, how about “casual spoken” vs. “formal” or is that enough separation?

  7. Josh says:

    May I say Jane that your website is amazing; just what I have been looking for. I have on question though: when do we use ‘quicker’ instead of ‘more quickly’ and vice versa? This has confused me a little and although you page was a big help, I still could not find an answer to this.
    I’m looking forward to a reply.
    Thank you very much, Jane.
    Regards.

  8. Jane says:

    Thanks, Josh. Use “quicker” as an adjective. Example: She has a quicker wit than all her friends. BUT She thinks more quickly than all her friends.

  9. Josh says:

    I understand now. Thank you very much once again. Your prompt reply is much appreciated.
    Warm regards.

  10. Cristine says:

    Hi to you Jane,

    thank you for your blog…

  11. Susan Musca says:

    Which is correct? please

    The quicker you walk the sooner you’ll arrive

    OR
    The more quickly you walk , the sooner you’ll arrive

    If the second sentence is correct ,is it because ‘quickly’ is referring to the verb.
    If so, is the following correct? ( here quicker is an adjective)

    The quicker you are in this exercise, the more bonus you’ll receive

    • Jane says:

      “more quickly”
      “Quickly” answers how the person walks, so an adverb is necessary.
      The next example you give is not grammatically correct, so I can’t give you an answer.

  12. Beni says:

    Hi Jane,

    I came across your blog after I heard many uses of “fun” as an adjective. You wrote:
    “Some one-syllable words, such as fun, are exceptions. You must use more or most with fun.

    Example: Learning English grammar is more fun than I thought it would be.”

    The reason we cannot say “funner” or “funnest” is because “fun” is most definitely a noun, not an adjective. The adjective that derives from fun is “funny”. However, “funny” has come to connote other things, so the word “enjoyable” encapsulates better the intentions of the speaker when he/she uses “fun” erroneously as an adjective.

    So, the corrected form of your example (“You are the funnest person I know.”) is simply: “You are the funniest person I know.”.

    However, the Oxford Dictionary concedes:
    “The use of fun as an adjective meaning ‘enjoyable,’ as in we had a fun evening, is now established in informal use, although not accepted in standard English. The adjective now has comparative and superlative forms funner and funnest, formed as if fun were a standard adjective.”

    Nonetheless, I do not think that your grammar website should promote non-accepted forms of grammar.

    Regards,
    Beni

    • Jane says:

      Thank you for pointing out the fact that one of the examples is in the wrong section. In the example “Learning English grammar is more fun that I thought it would be,” the word “fun” is used as a noun, not an adjective. It will need to be removed from the “Adjectives and Adverbs” section. I do not agree with you that the superlative adjective form of “fun” would be “funniest.” “Fun” and “funny” are completely different words. (Even on a personal level I know people who are “fun” but are not necessarily funny!) Even the nonstandard use of “fun” as an adjective would be: fun, more fun, most fun. “Funny” would be funny, funnier, funniest.

  13. JP says:

    Hi,

    A client doesn’t like the strapline ‘a better understanding’; she says a comparative is meaningless without reference to what it is better THAN. I do understand the (rather narrow) grammatical point, but surely ordinary spoken English – especially ‘commercial’ English – is rich with such law-bending?

    And what seems most important is clarity. If a company says ‘For a better holiday’ or ‘For a more comfortable journey’, the omission of ‘than your previous holiday / usual journey’ isn’t important, is it?

    • Jane says:

      Yes, spoken English certainly does differ in formality from written English. Your client makes an interesting point. A sentence without the rest of the comparative explanation can still be grammatically correct. In the phrases you mentioned, a better understanding, a better holiday, and a more comfortable journey, the rest of the comparative is implied. In less than formal writing, the rest of the comparative is only needed where there could be confusion over what the first part of the sentence is being compared to.

  14. John heaney says:

    hi, please can you sort out this mini grammar issue for me.
    ‘maria ______ in her group. i have 2 options, “works the quickest’ or works the most quickly’ which one is correct please and why do you think so. I think it is ‘works the quickest.’ Prove me wrong.
    thanks for this excellent site. look forward to hearing from you soon.

    regards.

    • Jane says:

      Since you are wanting to compare Maria’s work to others in her group (which we assume consists of more than one other person), the sentence could be, “Maria works the quickest of anyone in her group” or “Of any in her group, Maria works the quickest.”

  15. Alex says:

    What about dangerous???????????

  16. Don says:

    A question on the side of grammar, Jane made a sad passing in 2011. Who became Jane to answer queries?

    Regards.

    • Jane says:

      Very, very sad indeed. We informed Jane’s readers in the weekly E-Newsletter of March 8, 2011, that I, Jane’s husband, would do my very best to carry on Jane’s legacy. This is also noted on the website under the “About Jane” tab. I worked with Jane on all aspects of the book and website from 2004 until her death. While no one can truly replace Jane, I’m working to answer people’s inquiries with as much of the same conciseness, thorough research, and lightness of heart as Jane would. I feel it is a lasting tribute to Jane to continue to introduce the blog responses as “Jane says . . .” in much the same way that Abigail Van Buren’s newspaper column continued to be “Dear Abby.” I just can’t imagine changing it to “Lester says . . .” Thank you for your question. –Lester Kaufman

  17. Suvithondi says:

    I’m a little confused about the following:

    “She is the second & youngest of two children and the only daughter. ” Is this the correct usage?

    Thanks,
    Suvi

  18. Daria says:

    Hi
    I have a question on adjectives-adverbs usage, if you don’t mind.
    There go two sentences:

    1. I have more books than you.
    2. We haven’t had much rain this evening.

    Our grammar book says that ‘more’ and ‘much’ here are adverbs, but in the sentence they describe nouns, so they should be adjectives, I think. What is correct here? And why?
    Thanks for your help.

    • Jane says:

      In your example sentences, the words much and more function as adjectives, but are often termed determiners. Determiners precede and contextualize nouns.

      Until recently, traditional grammar and many dictionaries did not take determiners into account. Many determiners were classed as adjectives. Today many grammarians prefer to distinguish determiners as a separate class from adjectives.

  19. Jane says:

    The link is in the right-column of the blog as the RSS symbol near the bottom of the column and is http://data.grammarbook.com/blog/feed/

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