English grammar - comparative and superlative adjectives

- - Comparatives and superlatives


Form

  1. One syllable adjectives
    • Comparative: add er (cheaper)
    • Superlative: add est (the cheapest)
  2. One syllable adjectives ending in 'e'
    • Comparative: add r (nicer)
    • Superlative: add st (the nicest)
  3. One syllable adjectives ending in consonant - vowel - consonant
    • Comparative: add consonant + er (hotter)
    • Superlative: add consonant + est (the hottest)
  4. Two syllable adjectives ending in 'y'
    • Comparative: replace 'y' with ier (happier)
    • Superlative: replace 'y' with iest (the happiest)
  5. Two or more syllable adjectives
    • Comparative: add more / less (more / less beautiful)
    • Superlative: add the most / the least (the most / least beautiful)
  6. Irregular adjectives
    • good - better - the best
    • bad - worse - the worst
    • far - further - the furthest
  7. Equality and inequality
    • as + adjective + as
    • not as + adjective + as
  8. Modifying comparatives
    • much / a lot / far / a little / a bit / slightly + comparative adjective
  9. Modifying superlatives
    • by far / easily / nearly + superlative adjective

Meaning

  1. We use comparative adjectives to compare two things.
    • John is thinner than Bob.
    • It's more expensive to travel by train than by bus.
    • My house is smaller than my friend's house.
  2. We use superlative adjectives to compare one thing with the rest of the group it belongs to.
    • John is the tallest in the class.
    • He's the best football player in the team.
    • This is the most expensive hotel I've ever stayed in.
  3. We use as + adjective + as to say that two things are equal in some way.
    • He's as tall as me.
    • Jim's car is as fast as mine.
  4. We use not as + adjective + as to say that two things are not equal in some way.
    • Jim's car is not as fast as mine.
  5. We can repeat comparatives to say that something is changing.
    • These exams are getting worse and worse every year.
    • She gets more and more beautiful every time I see her.

Additional points

  1. We can modify comparatives with much, a lot, far, a little, a bit, slightly.
    • Bob is much richer than I am.
    • My mother's hair is slightly longer than mine.
  2. We can modify superlatives with by far, easily and nearly.
    • Mario's is by far the best restaurant in town.
    • I'm nearly the oldest in the class.
  3. We do not use the with the superlative if there is a possessive.
    • His strongest point is his ambition.
  4. If the second part of a comparative or superlative sentence is clear from what comes before or from the context, we can omit it.
    • Going by bus is very fast, but the train is more comfortable.

Pronunciation

(See the phonemic chart for IPA symbols used below)

  • than after a comparative is pronounced with a schwa in connected speech. "He is taller than me": /tɔːlə ðən/.
  • -est in superlative adjectives is pronounced /ɪst/.
  • as when talking about equality (or inequality) is pronounced with a schwa: "He's not as tall as me": /əz tɔːl əz/.

Ideas for teaching comparatives and superlatives

How do you teach comparatives and superlatives? Add your idea »

If your class is looking a bit sleepy, try this for a quick pick-me-up.

In this activity, the class will compete in two large groups to say 'Student 1 is taller than student 2 - student 2 is taller than student 3' and so on. The first group to finish is the winner.

Divide the class into two groups. Ask them to line up from tallest to smallest. You can do this easily through gestures. Students quickly get the idea that there's some kind of comparison going on.

Write on the board, 'Student 1 is taller than Student 2' (where student 1 and 2 are real names.) Demonstrate the target sentence and idea a few times. Tell the groups that there is a race to see which group finishes first. Teach, 'ready-set-go' (if they don't already know it).

Vary the activity by going the other way round, 'Student 1 is smaller than student 2'. Rearrange each group by age - 'S1 is older/ younger than S2'. Use your imagination to find ways to rearrange groups. These activities are done while standing up which is an excellent way to vary the pace of the class.
Jim

Bring in some flyers/magazines and have students race to see who can find and display the most items to compare of one kind. (using both comparative and superlative form).
Anonymous

If you want to get your students interested in your class, don't use the board or simple things to explain, use real things, like cell phones, pencils, books, chairs, mainly things that students can touch to make comparisons.
Leandro

I think that comparatives and superlatives shouldn't be used in the context of physical or mental features. Students usually have misconceptions. For example: Peter is thinner than Mark. Using this statement as an example creates the feeling of hatred and disappointment on the part of students. Thanks for the great job you are doing for us as teachers.
Hicham

When trying to teach young kids whether to use the comparative or superlative form, tell them to use the comparative to compare two items because -er has two letters... and to use the superlative form to compare three or more items because -est has three letters!
Jenn

Ask your students to write a description of one of their classmates and compare that person with themselves using comparative and superlative forms. Then, read the descriptions to the whole group. They will be interested in what their classmates think of them. You can also ask them to bring pics of their favorite artists. In class, they can write one comparative and one superlative sentence about 2 pics.
Daniela

For superlatives I have my students write 10 questions such as: Who is the most important person in your life? What is the most expensive thing you have ever bought? What is the funniest TV show?...

Then they stand up and circulate around the room asking their classmates the questions. Students answer using complete sentences such as: "My laptop computer is the most important thing I have ever bought". The person asking the question then notes the answer using only the person's name and the keyword in the answer such as: Hector/Laptop.

Then for HW they write the answers using complete sentences: The most expensive thing Hector has ever bought is his laptop computer. For additional HW I have them write a paragraph related to one of their own questions. They talk about their paragraph as a warm up activity the following day. This gives them reading, writing, listening and speaking practice.
Fuff

When you are trying to teach comparatives you can use things that your students find exciting, like soccer teams for men and singers or bands for girls... "Barcelona is better than Real Madrid." or "Shakira sings better than Britney"...
Anonymous

When I teach comparatives I draw a representation of a city on the board that will be a circle with the name of a city in it. After that, I ask students to describe that city. Elicit and write on the board only those adjectives with one or two syllables. Once I've elicited a considerable number of adjectives. I draw another circle of a different size and write the name of another city in it. This time ask students to compare the two cities. Write their examples on the board making corrections whenever necessary. Once students have grasped the concept of comparing. Introduce the question. Which city is bigger_______or ________?
Bessy

In order to reinforce comparative and superative rules, divide the whole group into two; two contestants should be selected before, one from each group. Show an adjective on a card, the first contestant says the best rule for the comparative. If correct, one point and so on. Teacher can choose comparative or superlative adjectives. The game can be varied by eliciting students oral sentences. The best answers can be rewarded with sweets/chocolates. Enjoy it!!
John Carrillo, Colombia

I teach comparatives by drawing a chart of temperatures of various cities eg. Delhi-40 jaipur-45 Simla-20 Surat-30 North pole-5. I tell students to compare two places and form a sentence. Also good for superlatives.
Hnkotadia

I usually bring pictures of famous cities around the world and ask where they are located. I give students some information (transport, weather...) for each place and then ask them to compare: which city is noisier, more polluted, etc.
Janaina

In order to teach comparatives I write on the board different sentences with short and long adjectives and I ask the students to read them and tell what they have in common and if these are different or not and why, they deduce the rules. The comparative forms are highlighted with a different colour.
Cecily

It's always funny to compare teachers especially including yourself "Miss... is nicer than Miss..." etc.
Selena

You could show students some cartoon characters which are very famous. They can compare the characters and have fun at the same time. Ask them to identify their favorite cartoon character and then compare with partner or group.
Anonymous

Carry several items to class and place them at the front of the class for all the students to see. Have bottles, cans etc of varying size. Select students at random to compare two or more things. Write it on the board and use their answers as the springboard for the lesson.
Christine

I teach comparatives and superlatives in business contexts to adults, therefore I ask them to describe their activities and compare them with the competitors and say in which way they are better or worse or weaker or stronger or among the products they produce to pick one and compare it with the rest.
Alicia

I play a concentration game with my students. They are asked to find the basic adjective and its comparative and superlative. The adjectives, comparatives and superlatives are written on small cards that are numbered on the floor. Students are not allowed to use pencils. As they play they learn the rules of making comparatives and superlatives.
Jorge

Thank you for your excellent ideas! What I do for practicing comparatives or superlatives is play a pictionary game. Divide the group into two teams. One person from the team comes to me and I show or say a sentence, the student has to draw the sentence and their team has to guess what the sentence is. They cannot use numbers, letters or signs, just the drawings. If the team guess correctly, they get a point, but if not, the other team has the chance to guess and get the point.
Martha

I divide my class in groups, then I give each group two sets of alphabets on little cards. I say an adjective (base form), and the groups must "spell" (with the letters) the correct comparative or superlative if they are correct they can run to the board and write a sentence; they get points or candies... it's lots of fun!
Anonymous

I take some data about the rank of the biggest, largest, coldest (etc) countries in the world. I do a quiz with the class in several groups. Competitive games are always fun!
Galuh Azhar

Well, I bring a current topic to class. For example, these days the national elections are being held in Peru, Lima. The rivalry between two candidates is a good opportunity to elicit adjectives from students and invite then to compare.
Alonso, Lima, Peru

I usually display different objects on my desk and I ask each student to pick, for example, the longest / shortest and so on using colours and the name of the object. For example, "Omar can you pick the longest pencil?" "Ali can you get me the biggest blue box, please" and so on.
Vidula

I teach English in a small village, so when I teach comperatives and superlatives, I take my students on a nature trip to compare things.
Asma'a Banat

For superlatives...

1. Review of rules
2. Powerpoint presentation:

- a picture from www.guinnessworldrecords.com - students say what kind of record they think it is.
- show title of the record to check their answers and remind them of the rules.
- another picture from www.guinnessworldrecords.com

and so on
Marion Warzagier

When i teach comparatives and superlatives i stick some animal flashcards on the board and ask the learners to describe these animals e.g: the elephant is big. the mouse is small... then ask them to compare 2 animals (correct their answers if necessary) and i write their answers on the board. I then do the same with 3 animals for superlatives.
Shimaa elshinnawy

When i teach comparative and superlatives, i sometimes give some famous pictures (celebrities, places,etc), and then i ask the students to write adjectives about the pictures in group. The group that can mention more words are the winner. After that, they make comparative and superlative sentences about the pictures.
EkaMulqy

I like to collect postcards from my travels and also from my friends. I get two postcards and try to elicit adjectives to describe the cities they see on the postcard and then I teach the comparative form by using the adjectives students have mentioned. After that, I choose three postcards and teach the superlative form. In order to give speaking practice I then give out postcards to students in pairs and they form sentences using comparatives and superlatives.
Sonia




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