Comparative and Superlative Adjectives for ESL Teachers and Students | GoProfe

Why is it grammatically correct to say “happier” but not “joyfuller”? Why do we say “the most intelligent” but not “the most smart”? As an English speaker, it’s natural to take the grammar of your native language for granted. This can make it difficult, however, to teach students who are learning English as a foreign language.

adjectives
Comparative and Superlative Adjectives

Whether you are an ESL teacher or student, comparative and superlative adjectives can be especially difficult to understand and explain. Whether you are a native English speaker trying to design a lesson plan or an ESL student studying for your next exam, it can seem like there are no rules at all and that you simply have to memorize every adjective in the English language. As difficult as it may seem, there are actually a couple grammar rules that govern these adjectives. To help you out, the team at goprofe.com has put together this article.

Haz clic aquí para leer este artículo en español.

First of all, what exactly are comparative and superlative adjectives? What function do they play in the English language?

Comparative adjectives are used to compare two things to each other, while superlative adjectives are used to compare one thing to a group of other things.

So, how does one form a comparative or superlative adjective in English?

The general rules for creating these adjectives depend on the number of syllables of the root word and its final letter.

As always, keep in mind that there will be exceptions to all of these rules. This article is only meant as a starting point for more in-depth study. As you may know, even some native English speakers may disagree on the correct form in certain situations.

Adjectives that are one syllable, or end with the letter -Y use the -er and -est endings, such as

Adjective Comparative Superlative
Big Bigger Biggest
Sweet Sweeter Sweetest
Happy Happier Happiest
Tiny Tinier Tiniest

Remember to keep in mind two spelling rules with these adjectives:

  1. Adjectives that end in -Y undergo a spelling change from “-y” to “-i-” when the “-er” and “-est” endings are added.
  2. Adjectives that are three letters long and are made up of a consonant followed by a vowel and another consonant typically double the last consonant before adding the “-er” and “-est” endings.

Adjectives that are two or more syllables and do not end with the letter “Y” use the words “more” and “most” to modify them, such as:

Adjective Comparative Superlative
Careful More Careful Most Careful
Interesting More Interesting Most Interesting

Irregular Comparative and Superlative Adjectives

Of course, not all adjectives follow these rules. There are many exceptions, such as:

Adjective Comparative Superlative
Good Better Best
Bad Worse Worst
Much More Most
Little Less Least
Far Further Furthest

Let us know if you found this article helpful and comment down below with your own tricks for learning comparative and superlative adjectives in English! Also, let us know if there are any ESL topics that you want us to cover in the future. As always, goprofe.com is here to help you find students looking for private English classes anywhere in Spain.
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