Daily Language Investigations for English Language Arts
Lesson 1.3b More on Adjectives: Comparative and Superlative
Adjectives form their comparative forms by adding either -er to the adjective or more before the adjective. (See Test 1 in Lesson 1.3.) And they form their superlative forms by adding either -est to the adjective or most before the adjective.
How do you know whether to use -er or more, or to use -est or most? Mostly, you just know. Show how the list of adjectives in the left column of this downloadable chart forms their comparative and superlative forms by writing those forms in the appropriate column. Two are done for you. Note that some may work both ways.
Can you figure out a pattern of which words take which comparative and superlative?
For those that you think sound ok either way, check a dictionary to see what it suggests, but trust your instincts too!
[Teacher’s Note: Generally, one-syllable adjectives take -er/-est, and three-syllable or more adjectives that more and most. But adjectives with two syllables tend to vary in whether they take -er/-est or more/most. Some take either form, and the situation determines the usage. For example, one will see commoner and more common, depending on which sounds better in the context. Two-syllable adjectives that end in the “ee” sound, most often spelled with y, generally take -er/-est, for example,
pretty/prettier/prettiest seems better than more pretty, most pretty to most speakers
Longer adjectives, especially those from Greek and Latin, and including most adjectives with three or more syllables, require more and most.
more/most expensive, more/most satisfying, more/most satisfactory
Adjectives which end in -ous do not take -er/-est: furiouser, hideouser, though curiouser is a curiosity. It is found in both Webster’s Third and the Oxford English Dictionary Second Edition, probably just because Lewis Carroll used it in fun in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:
“Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English); “now I'm opening out like the largest telescope that ever was! Good-bye, feet!” (for when she looked down at her feet, they seemed to be almost out of sight, they were getting so far off).
What about funner? If it is generally the case that one-syllable adjectives take -er and -est rather than more and most, then why is there a longstanding prohibition against funner and funnest? It’s not really clear where this anti-funner rule came from. It may stem from the fact that long ago, fun used to be a noun only. It’s still a noun: much fun was had by all. So the prohibition against funner and funnest seems to have come about as the word was in transition from being a noun to also being an adjective. Now, fun acts like any other (one-syllable) adjective with the forms fun, funner, and funnest (just like tall, taller, tallest). It’s probably only a matter of time before these comparative and superlative forms become perfectly acceptable. So don’t simply tell your students that funner isn’t a word – it is! It could be an opportunity to talk about it not being completely acceptable in formal writing, but that it is quite acceptable in informal discourse.]
key words: adjectives, comparative, superlative, variation
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.3.1a: Explain the function of nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs in general and their functions in particular sentences.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.3.1g: Form and use comparative and superlative adjectives and adverbs, and choose between them depending on what is to be modified.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.3.2g: Consult reference materials, including beginning dictionaries, as needed to check and correct spellings.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.4.3c: Differentiate between contexts that call for formal English (e.g., presenting ideas) and situations where informal discourse is appropriate (e.g., small-group discussion).
Here is this lesson as a pdf.