Grammar Tips for Comparison

The Grammar PatrolWe (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.


Life and literature are full of comparisons. Shakespeare’s sonnet posed the question, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate . . . ”

In the movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the evil queen asks her looking glass, “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of us all?” Sorry, Evil Queen—Snow White’s the fairest in the land. She’s superlative.


When using adjectives and some adverbs to compare, common bloopers can occur: more better, most fastest.

Let’s review. Comparisons have three degrees:

• positive (the basic form of the word)

• comparative (two things)

• superlative (more than two).


Positive                     Comparative                   Superlative

frizzy                           frizzier                                    frizziest

warm                          warmer                                   warmest

beautiful                    more beautiful                      most beautiful


Comparatives and superlatives often cause mistakes.



If you’re comparing two things, one to the other:

—Add an er ending or “more” or “less” to most one-syllable words:

younger, more/less young

wilder, more/less wild

denser, more/less dense

Of stock car racing and archery, archery seems safer (or more safe).


—With two-syllable words ending in y, drop the y and add er, or use “more” or “less” before the word:

(silly) sillier, more/less silly

(gaudy) gaudier, more/less gaudy

(zany) zanier, more/less zany

(muddy) muddier, more/less muddy

—With words of three or more syllables, use “more” or “less” before the word:

less bountiful                  more athletic            more intelligent

* Tip: You can also modify the comparative form with the adverb “much.”

Jackson Pollack’s paintings were much sloppier than those by Salvador Dalí.



To compare more than two things:

—Add the ending est to most one-syllable and some two-syllable words.

fastest                        shiniest          messiest        lightest           silliest

—Add “most” or “least” to some two-syllable and most three-syllable words:

most savvy    most skillful   least dangerous       least sour      least athletic

San Francisco is the least affordable city in California.

The late Tony Gwynn was the San Diego Padres’ most popular player.


Keeping Comparatives and Superlatives Straight

Comparing two things? Use er.

Comparing three things? Use est.


Comparison Pitfalls


Camilla is the younger of the two sisters. (not “youngest”)

The 1915 Rio is the oldest of our six antique cars. (not “older”)


Just as chameleons change color, irregular comparatives change forms.

Positive         Comparative            Superlative

good               better                          best

bad                 worse                         worst


—Doubling Up

Comparative: Use er or “more,” not both:

Gambling is either “riskier” or “more risky” never “more riskier” than Bingo.


Superlative: Use est or “most,” not both:

A gazelle is either the “most swift” or the “swiftest” of animals, never “the most swiftest.”


—Problem Words

You can’t add er or est to some adjectives, like “fun” or “false.”

Don’t say, My red glasses are “funner.” She had “falser” eyelashes than I did.


Please Share

That’s the scoop from the Grammar Patrol. You’ll find more on comparatives and superlatives in our zany Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar guides. Let us know when you hear bloopers of any kind, especially ones with comparisons. We love hearing from you.

Have a better-than-average day and a most delightful summer!

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