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Lesson 4.1

Comparatives and Superlatives

Los comparativos y superlativos
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As we have seen, adjectives describe qualities of nouns. Some of these qualities can vary in degree or intensity (gradable adjectives). When we want to make comparisons contrasting qualities or attributes of a noun, we do so by means of an adjective in one of three grades.

Grades of Adjectives

Gradable adjectives can vary in degree or intensity and therefore can have comparative and superlative forms. See below for rules on how to form the comparative and superlative forms.

The positive grade

The positive grade, which we saw previously, is the quality in the simplest grade.

  fast,   hard,   smart,   pretty,   clean,   large,   small,
  old,   easy

Examples:

 Juan runs fast.
 Angela’s room is clean.
 I am tall.
 New York is big.

The Comparative Grade

When making comparisons, we can highlight the superiority, inferiority or equality of one quality or another. The structure of each of these grades of comparison is different.

1. Comparisons of superiority. In comparisons of superiority, the adjective, which is in the comparative form (see below), is followed by “than”.

Examples:

 Juan runs faster than Mark.
 Angela’s room is cleaner than Sue’s.
 I am taller than Beth.
 New York is bigger than Los Angeles.

2. Comparisons of inferiority. To form this type of comparison we can use the conjunctions “not asas” or “lessthan”. In both cases, the adjective is in the positive grade.

Examples:

 Mark is not as fast as Juan.
 Sue’s room is less clean than Angela’s..
 Beth is notas tall as me.
 Los Angeles is not as big as New York.

3. Comparisons of equality. With the adjective in the positive grade, we use the conjunction “asas” to form comparisons of equality.

Examples:

 Mark is as fast as Juan.
 Sue’s room is as clean as Angela’s.
 Beth is as tall as I am.
 Los Angeles is as big as New York.
Note: We can modify a comparison using a quantifier such as “much”, “a lot”, “a little”, etc.

Examples:

 Juan is a lot faster than Mark.
 I am a little taller than Beth.

The Superlative Grade

The superlative grade denotes a quality at its highest degree and is formed using the article “the” in front of the superlative form of the adjective (see below).

Examples:

 Juan is the fastest.
 Angela’s room is the cleanest.
 I am the tallest.
 New York is the biggest city in the United States.
Note: If the adjective is possessive, we don’t use “the”. In addition, we don’t use “the” when comparing something with itself.

Examples:

 His smartest student is Lisa.
 New York is coldest in January.

Form

Below are the rules for forming the comparative and superlative forms of gradable adjectives.

1. For one syllable adjectives:

Comparative Superlative
add: “-er
  faster
add: “-est
  fastest

2. For one syllable adjectives that end in “-e”:

Comparative Superlative
add: “-r
  nicer
add: “-st
  nicest

3. For one syllable adjectives that end in “consonant + vowel + consonant”:

Comparative Superlative
add: consonant + “-er
  hotter
add: consonant + “-est
  hottest
t

4. For two syllable adjectives that end in “-y”:

Comparative Superlative
substitute “y” for:“-ier
  funnier
substitute “y” for: “-iest
  funniest

5. For adjectives of two syllables or more:

Comparative Superlative
add: “more”/ “less
  more beautiful
  less beautiful
add: “the most”/ “the least”:
  the most beautiful
  the least beautiful

6. Irregular adjectives:

Adjetive Comparative Superlative
  good   better   best
  bad   worse   worst
  far   further   furthest
Note: Some qualities cannot vary in intensity or degree because they are extremes, absolutes or classifying adjectives. These qualities are known as non-gradable adjectives and they don’t have either comparative or superlative forms.

Examples:

Extreme

 freezing
 excellent

Absolute

 dead
 unique

Classifying

 married
 domestic
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