What Is a Comparative Adjective? | Definition & Examples

A comparative adjective indicates a higher or lower degree of a specific attribute (e.g., “faster,” “less trusted”) in a comparison of two people, things, or groups.

Most comparative adjectives are created either by adding the suffix “-er” (e.g., “younger”) or by adding “more” (e.g., “more famous”) or “less” (e.g., “less popular”) before the adjective. The form each comparative adjective takes is determined in part by the number of syllables in the original adjective.

Comparative adjectives examples
The coffee is hotter at the café across the street.

The blue dress is prettier than the green one.

This phone is more expensive than the previous model.

What is a comparative adjective?

A comparative adjective characterizes a noun or pronoun as possessing a specific attribute to a greater or lesser extent compared to another person, thing, or group.

All comparative adjectives involve comparisons, whether implied (e.g., “Yesterday’s coffee was better”) or stated explicitly (e.g., “Robert is shorter than Jim”).

Comparative adjective examples in sentences
Jane Goodall is considered a more influential primatologist than many of her contemporaries.

Hawaii’s climate is warmer than Alaska’s.

The shorter of the two mountain peaks is less challenging to climb.

How are comparative adjectives formed?

Most comparative adjectives are constructed following straightforward patterns based on syllable count. There are also irregular adjectives that defy any specific pattern, which may require memorization.

In most cases, one- and two-syllable adjectives can be changed to the comparative form by appending the suffix “-er.” For adjectives with three or more syllables (and some two-syllable adjectives), insert “more” before the base adjective.

Syllable count Comparative form Examples
One-syllable Add “-er” mean; meaner
slow; slower
strong; stronger
Two syllables Add “-er” or add “more” or “less” before the adjective narrow; narrower
patient; more patient
quiet; quieter
Three or more syllables Add “more” or “less” before the adjective adventurous; more adventurous
curious; more curious
mysterious; more mysterious

If an adjective has an “-e” ending, the comparative can be formed by adding “-r.” For most adjectives ending in “-y,” change the “-y” to “i” and add “-er.” For adjectives that end in a consonant-vowel-consonant pattern, double the final consonant and add “-er” to form the comparative.

Original ending Comparative ending Examples
“-e” Add “-r” brave; braver
large; larger
wide; wider
“-y” Change “-y” to “i” and add “-er” lovely; lovelier
spicy; spicier
noisy; noisier
Consonant + vowel + consonant Double the final consonant and add “-er” hot; hotter
red; redder
fit; fitter
For a few one-syllable adjectives ending in “-y,” there are two acceptable spellings of the comparative form. These words include “sly” (“slyer” or “slier”) and “spry” (“spryer” or “sprier”). Consult your preferred dictionary or style guide to determine whether one spelling is preferred in your discipline.

Irregular comparative adjectives

Irregular comparative adjectives deviate from the standard patterns of forming comparatives, which involve adding the “-er” suffix or using “more” or “less” before the base form of the adjective.

Positive Comparative Superlative
old older/elder oldest/eldest
little less least
much/many more most
well/good better best
bad worse worst

How are comparative adjectives used in sentences?

Sentences that include comparative adjectives often follow a specific structure: noun/pronoun (subject) + verb + “more”/“less” + adjective + “than” + noun/pronoun (e.g., “Terence is more excited than John”).

In sentences that don’t use “more” or “less,” a comparative adjective ending in “-er” is used instead of the base form (e.g., “Your car is nicer than mine”).

A sentence may also take a much simpler form, such as the following pattern: noun/pronoun (subject) + linking verb + comparative adjective (e.g., “He is friendlier”). In these instances, the comparison is implied rather than explicit.

Examples: Comparative adjectives
Blake seems less judgmental than Mary.

I’m taller than my dad.

Studying this weekend is more important than going fishing.

Sentences that contain comparative adjectives can take various forms. For example, the sentence “John is always happier in summer” contains a prepositional phrase (“in summer”) rather than a noun or pronoun that is modified by the comparative adjective.

The QuillBot Grammar Checker can help you use comparative adjectives correctly in sentences.

Comparative and superlative adjectives

The comparative and superlative degrees differ in scope, though both are used to make comparisons. Comparative adjectives are typically used to compare two people, things, or groups. Superlative adjectives compare one person, thing, or group to multiple others.

Examples: Comparative vs superlative degree examples
His grades are better than they were last semester.
His grades are the best they’ve ever been.

I’ve never been prouder.
I’m the proudest I’ve ever been.

You’re more honest than your sister.
You’re the most honest person I’ve ever met.

Frequently asked questions about comparative adjectives

What is the comparative form of the adjective good?

The comparative form of the adjective “good” is “better” (e.g., “The second draft of the essay was better than the first”). “Better” is an irregular comparative adjective that doesn’t follow the usual rules (i.e., it doesn’t end in “-er” or include the words “more” or “less”).

What is the comparative form of the adjective bad?

The comparative form of the adjective “bad” is “worse” (e.g., “His performance in the second round was worse than in the first”). “Worse” is an irregular comparative adjective that doesn’t follow the usual rules (i.e., it doesn’t end in “-er” or include the words “more” or “less”).

The comparative adjective “worse” is not to be confused with the superlative adjectiveworst” (e.g., “He was the worst player on the team”).

What is the comparative form of the adjective clean?

The comparative form of the adjective “clean” is “cleaner” (e.g., “The kitchen looked so much cleaner after a thorough scrubbing”).

The superlative form of “clean” is “cleanest” (e.g., “This is the cleanest kitchen I have ever seen”).

What is the comparative form of the adjective lively?

The comparative form of the adjective “lively” is “livelier” (e.g., “The party became livelier as more guests arrived”).

The superlative form of “lively” is “liveliest” (e.g., “This is the liveliest bar in town”).

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Magedah Shabo

Magedah is the author of Rhetoric, Logic, & Argumentation and Techniques of Propaganda and Persuasion. She began her career in the educational publishing industry and has over 15 years of experience as a writer and editor. Her books have been used in high school and university classrooms across the US, including courses at Harvard and Johns Hopkins. She has taught ESL from elementary through college levels.