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Comparisons in English

Things are different from one another, right? Same with people.

Read this post for the ultimate guide to making comparisons in English. We guarantee that by the end, you’ll be smarter than you are now!


  • And One More Thing...
  • Making Comparisons with Adjectives

    The most common way to form comparisons in English is with adjectives. 

    An adjective is a descriptive word that describes a noun (a person, place, thing or idea).

    incrediblemore incrediblemost incredible

    Standard and Comparative Adjectives

    Positive comparisons: [A] is [comparative adjective] than [B]

    If something or someone is different from another thing or person, you can compare them using comparative adjectives followed by the word “than”, like in these examples: 

    The oak tree is taller than the maple tree.
    My mother is nicer than my father.
    Dogs are more friendly than cats.
    Pasta is healthier than pizza.

    Equal comparisons: A is as [adjective] as B

    Sometimes two things are similar in one way or another. You can express this with “as [adjective] as,” for example:

    The United States is as rich as Canada.
    Dogs are as friendly as pigs.
    Dinner is as important as breakfast.

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    Remember that if the two things you’re comparing are not exactly the same, you can indicate the small difference with words like “almost,” “about” and “nearly.” For example: 

    Rome is nearly as beautiful as Paris.
    Tom is almost as tall as Sonya.
    The Volkswagen is about as fast as the Kia.

    Negative comparisons: A is less [adjective] than B

    If I want to make a negative comparison, the basic rule is very simple: Put “less” before the adjective:

    Mexico is less populated than Russia.
    Russians are perhaps less optimistic than Mexicans.
    Sheila is taller than John.
    John is shorter than Sheila.

    How to form comparative adjectives

    If the adjective only has one syllable, you can just add “-er” to make the comparative form.

    pink → pinker
    lean → leaner
    fresh → fresher

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    If that adjective ends in “e” already, you can just add the “-r” like in these examples:

    large → larger
    pale → paler
    white → whiter

    If an adjective that ends with a consonant + vowel + consonant, you must double the final consonant before adding the “-er.” For example:

    big → bigger
    hot → hotter
    fat → fatter

    If the adjective already ends in a double consonant, you can just add the “-er.” For example: 

    small → smaller

    When the adjective has three or more syllables, you have to add “more” in front of the adjective:

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    populated → more populated
    beautiful → more beautiful
    incredible → more incredible

    When you have an adjective that ends in Y, you have to change the Y to I and then add “-er:”

    happy → happier
    lovely → lovelier
    friendly → friendlier

    Irregular comparative adjectives

    We’ve already discussed the rules for making comparative adjectives—but some adjectives are irregular, so you just have to remember them.

    There are three common irregular adjectives that don’t follow any rule at all, such as:

    good → better
    bad → worse
    far → farther (distance), e.g. “Anne’s ball landed farther than John’s.”
    far → further (time or concept), e.g. “Let’s discuss this further.”

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    Superlative Adjectives

    A superlative adjective is similar to a comparative adjective, but we use superlative adjectives to indicate things that are the most extreme or which have the highest degree of an adjective.

    red → reddest
    clean → cleanest
    expensive → most expensive
    cheap → cheapest

    A is the [superlative adjective]

    We use this form to say that something is the most (or least) of something. It’s the adjective in its most extreme form.

    The beach hotel is the most expensive.
    The Porsche is the fastest.
    My grandmother is the nicest person in the family.

    How to form superlative adjectives

    You’ll notice that the rules for forming superlative adjectives are very similar to the rules for forming comparative adjectives. First, all superlative adjectives will begin with “the.” Then:

    If the adjective you’re using has one syllable, add “-est” to the end (or just “-st” if it already ends in “e”).

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    cold  → the coldest
    large → the largest

    If the adjective ends with the letter “y,” change the “y” to “i” and add “-est.”

    hungry → the hungriest

    If the adjective has two or more syllables, you can make it superlative by adding “most” before the adjective.

    creative → the most creative
    beautiful → the most beautiful

    Exceptions and negative superlatives

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    The two biggest exceptions are also for the adjectives “good” and “bad.” Here are their superlative forms:

    good → the best
    bad → the worst

    Let’s look at an example. Let’s say we took an exam, and I got an 88, you got a 98 and Jenny scored a 78. This means I can say:

    You got the best grade in the class on that exam. Jenny got the worst grade.

    The other exception, “far,” becomes “the farthest” (or “the furthest”) in its superlative form.

    For negative superlatives, we put the phrase “the least” before the adjective. 

    It’s the least expensive option.
    I’m the least tired of all of us.
    My father is the least friendly person in the family.

    Making Comparisons with Adverbs

    Adverbs are words that describe how or when things happen. A few common examples are “quickly,” “slowly” and “happily.” Adverbs describe verbs, adjectives or other adverbs.

    If I want to compare how two things happen, I can add the word “more” or “less” before the adverb to make a comparison. For example:

    Mexico’s population is increasing more quickly than China’s.
    China’s population is increasing more slowly than Mexico’s.

    We could also use superlatives in cases like these, but they often sound a bit confusing and unnatural.

    Making Comparisons with Nouns

    Comparisons with “more” or “less”

    If you’re talking about two nouns, then you can compare two quantities with the words “more,” “less” or “fewer.”

    “More” can work for things that are countable (like dogs, pencils, dollars or bottles) and uncountable (such as water, sugar, money or milk). 

    Wendy has more money than Tim. 

    It’s a little more complicated to make the negative comparison. If the things you want to compare are not countable, then you should use “less”:

    Tim has less money than Wendy.

    But if the things you want to compare are countable (like people), then you should use “fewer”:

    Mexico has fewer people than Russia.
    I have fewer books than my library.

    Finally, we can also use superlatives in this case, but we generally have to include more information or already understand it from the context.

    Victoria has the most money.
    Victoria makes the most money out of all the dancers in the state.


    I hope you’re now smarter than when you started reading this article.

    Using the above information, you should be able to compare most things in many situations. Remember that these are the basic rules for using comparatives and superlatives in English, but you can always find more complicated examples and additional exceptions. Using an immersive learning program like FluentU is a great way to reinforce the basic rules as well as find more complex examples in context. In other words, you can learn how to make comparisons in English the way native English speakers do.

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    In that spirit of learning, I want to end with a quote about that exact idea, which also includes comparisons:

    I cannot say this too strongly: Do not compare yourself to others. Be true to who you are, and continue to learn with all your might. —Daisaku Ikeda

    And One More Thing...

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