How to Make Comparisons in English

Alex Johnson
June 17, 2020 ·
5 min read
Grammar
Vocabulary

In any language it is an essential ability to be able to make comparisons. As humans, we do it all the time, contrasting two things to ascertain which is better, more suitable, or more desirable.

Fortunately, in English, making comparisons is something that, grammatically speaking, is not only easy to do, but rarely departs from the rule (the irregulars don’t vastly outnumber the regulars, as is the case in many elements of English grammar).

Making positive comparisons

Positive comparisons can be made as follows:

Number of syllables of adjectiveComparative formExample
One (fast, slim*, tall)+ er + thanThis car is faster than that car.
Two syllables ending in ‘y’ (happy, lazy, smelly)remove the ‘y’ + ier + thanI am happier than I have ever been.
Two or more syllables (intelligent, expensive, comfortable)more + adjective + thanPeople are more intelligent than computers. 
*double the consonant when the adjective finishes with consonant-vowel-consonant

But beware, because there are a handful or irregulars

good – better

bad – worse

far – further (farther is also possible, but is less-used)

To emphasize any difference, use the word ‘much’ plus the comparative form. Here are some examples:

This car is much faster than that car.

I am much happier than I have ever been.

People are much more intelligent than computers.  

Also note that you can make a positive comparative by substituting the word ‘more’ for ‘less’ to create the opposite meaning. This is still considered a positive comparative because the verb form (‘is’) is positive. Here are some examples:

People are less intelligent than computers.

That bicycle is less expensive than this one. 

Making negative comparatives

Comparatives can also be made in English by using a negative verb structure. Now the form of the comparative changes:

Negative verb form + as + adjective + as

Here are some examples:

This car isn’t as fast as that car.

I am not as happy as I was.

People are not as intelligent as computers.  

The positive comparison for equality

Then, there is a way of blending the positive and negative comparative forms to create equality, meaning that the two things are of the same level. Here is the structure:

positive verb + as + adjective + as.

And here are some examples:

This car is as fast as that car. (they are the same)

I am as happy as I have ever been. (my level of happiness is the same)

People are as intelligent as computers. (they are the same)

Superlatives

Once again, making superlatives (for when you are comparing three or more things) is relatively simple in English, and there are not too many irregulars:

Number of syllables of adjectiveSuperlative formExample
One (fast, slim*, tall)the + estThis car is the fastest in the world.
Two syllables ending in ‘y’ (happy, lazy, smelly)the + remove the ‘y’ + iestI am the happiest that I have ever been.
Two or more syllables (intelligent, expensive, comfortable)the + most + adjectivePeople are the most intelligent animals.
*double the consonant when the adjective finishes with consonant-vowel-consonant

But do be aware of these irregulars:

Good – the best

Bad – the worst

Far – the furthest (the farthest is also possible, but is less common)

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