What Are Comparative Adjectives And How Do You Use Them?

If you’re a grammar pro, you already know that adjectives are words that we use to modify and describe nouns and pronouns. Words like hot, fast, green, and indestructible are examples of adjectives. There are many different types of adjectives out there that we can use in our sentences.

Comparative adjectives are a special kind of adjective that we use when we want to compare one thing to another. For example, we can say that a banana is a healthier food than a cupcake because it better exemplifies the qualities of the adjective healthy. This sounds great so far, but comparative adjectives are even more useful than you might think. Read on to learn more!


What is a comparative adjective?

A comparative adjective is an adjective used to compare two people or things. We use comparative adjectives to say that one person or thing demonstrates a high degree of a quality or is a better example of a quality than the other. Words like taller, smarter, and slower are examples of comparative adjectives.

Let’s illustrate how we use comparative adjectives with a hypothetical: you have metal blocks in front of you. The left block weighs 10 pounds and the right block weighs 20 pounds. Because the right block weighs more than the left block, we would say that the right block is heavier than the left block. On the other hand, we could also say that the left block is lighter than the right block. We are using comparative adjectives to compare the blocks to each other by indicating which one has a more extreme degree of a certain quality (heaviness or lightness).

A comparative adjective is formed from the positive form of an adjective, which is the form of an adjective you will find if you look it up in our incredible dictionary. The adjectives brave, fast, and cute are adjectives in the positive form, for example.

Here are the rules for forming comparatives from a positive form of the adjective:

  • Most one-syllable adjectives: Add -er to the end. For example, clear becomes clearer. If the adjective ends in -e, just add -r. For example, free becomes freer. If the adjective ends in -y, you sometimes replace the -y with an -i before adding -er. For example, dry becomes drier but shy becomes either shier or shyer.
  • One-syllable adjectives that end in consonant-vowel-consonant: Double the final consonant before adding -er. For example, big becomes bigger and wet becomes wetter.
  • Two-syllable adjectives that end in Y: Drop the -y, replace it with an -i, and then add -er. For example, rainy becomes rainier and ugly becomes uglier.
  • Two-syllable adjectives that end in -er, -le, or -owAdd -er to the end. For example, narrow becomes narrower and simple becomes simpler.
  • All other adjectives that are two syllables or longer: Add the word more or less to the positive form. For example, acceptable becomes more acceptable and unmanageable becomes less unmanageable.

There are a few adjectives that are exceptions to the above rules. For example, the adjectives quiet, narrow, and clever can use either the -er or the more/less forms. However, we never use both forms at the same time. For example you wouldn’t say someone is “less cleverer.”

Additionally, there are some adjectives that are irregular. These include good, well, bad, far, and old. Their comparative forms are:

  • good and well  better
  • bad → worse (Note: The word badder is sometimes used as a slang or nonstandard comparative form of bad.)
  • far → Some style guides may say that farther is preferred for physical distance and further is preferred for figurative distance. However, these words are often used interchangeably in everyday speech and writing.
  • old → Most of the time, old behaves as a regular adjective and its comparative form is older. However, when discussing the ages of people, the word elder is sometimes used as the comparative form of old as in The elder kitten had darker fur than the younger one. In general, though, elder is not as commonly used, and many speakers and writers will use the word older even when referring to people.

When we use comparative adjectives in sentences, we often use them together with the word than in order to connect the two people or things we are comparing. For example, we say This soup is hotter than that one and not This soup is hotter that one.

It is entirely possible not to use than with a comparative adjective, though, as in This house is big, but the one down the road is even bigger. The important thing is that you make it clear what exactly you’re comparing when using a comparative adjective.

Stay on top of all your adjectives and more with these helpful tips for proofreading.

List of comparative adjectives

As long as it makes sense to use an adjective to compare two things, any positive form adjective can be turned into a comparative adjective. The following list gives just a sample of words we use as comparative adjectives:

  • angrier, busier, cooler, dustier, more energetic, friendlier, less gruesome, happier, more interesting, less jarring, kinder, leaner, meaner, nicer, less obstructive, prettier, more questionable, redder, less sincere, more talented, less ungrateful, vaster, wiser, younger, zestier

Where do you include a comparative adjective in a sentence?

Comparative adjectives can be placed either immediately before the noun or pronoun they modify or can be used as a subject complement together with a linking verb (such as be or seem).

  • I replaced my old computer with a newer one.
  • Rachel looked at the two dresses and decided to buy the more expensive one.
  • The company claims that their next car will be faster and safer.
  • Kids today are a lot more independent than they were just a decade ago.

Comparative adjective examples in a sentence

Let’s look at examples of comparative adjectives used in sentences. In each example, the comparative adjective is in bold.

Comparative adjectives using -er 

In the following sentences, the comparative adjectives all use the -er form.

  • My employees are all younger than me.
  • We moved from a big city to a smaller town.
  • Erica will need to get faster if she wants to win the big race.
  • When learning a new language, it is best to start with simple words before learning harder ones.

Comparative adjectives using more 

Longer adjectives use the words more and less when used as comparative adjectives. We use the word more to say that something demonstrates a higher degree of a quality than something else.

  • The end of the book is more interesting than the beginning.
  • Out of the two houses, the mansion is definitely more spacious than the cottage.
  • Generally speaking, cats tend to be more independent than dogs.
  • They added gold-plated cup holders to the limo to make it feel more luxurious.

Comparative adjectives using less 

When using longer comparative adjectives, we use the word less to describe a noun or pronoun as having the lower extreme of a quality when comparing two things.

  • The merry-go-round is a less intense ride than the rollercoaster.
  • We left the shopping mall to try and find a less crowded place to hang out.
  • She retired from acting to live a less glamorous life in the countryside.
  • Ted quit his job as a waiter because he wanted to pursue a less demanding career.

Irregular comparative adjectives

The adjectives good, well, bad, old, and far have irregular comparative forms. Let’s look at how we use them in sentences. Pay special attention to how the comparative form of far may change depending on its meaning.

  • The barber did a much better job cutting my daughter’s hair than I did.
  • Julie was sick yesterday, but she is feeling better today.
  • Not doing your homework is bad, but copying someone else’s is even worse.
  • Diego is Matt’s elder brother.
  • The post office is further/farther away from my house than the supermarket is.

Sometimes, the word badder is used as a slang comparative form of bad. For the most part, the word worse is preferred in formal writing or speech.

  • The small spiders don’t bother me. But you’ve really got to watch out for the biggerbadder monsters.

Comparative adjective rules & best practices

Like many other types of adjectives, you can use comparative adjectives both immediately before nouns/pronouns or as subject complements. It is even possible to use multiple comparative adjectives to describe the same noun/pronoun:

  • I threw out my old laptop and bought a newer, better one.
  • Compared to zebras, horses are largergentler, and friendlier.
  • She didn’t buy the hat because she needed one that was flashier and more memorable.

There are a few grammatical rules you need to remember when using comparative adjectives, however. Most of these rules determine when we should use a comparative adjective and when we use a superlative adjective.

1. Comparative adjectives are only used to compare two people or things. If you are comparing more than two things or people, you must use a superlative adjective.

❌ Incorrect: When comparing the sizes of birds, ostriches are clearly the larger of them all.
 Correct: When comparing the sizes of birds, ostriches are clearly the largest of them all.

Become even more adept at adjectives by reviewing the superlative adjective in full detail here.

You need to be careful because sometimes a group is collectively referred to as a single “thing” in a comparison. For example, if you are comparing apples to oranges, you are only comparing two things even though the words apples and oranges refer to many fruits.

❌ Incorrect: Mortimer is richest than everyone else in town combined.
 Correct: Mortimer is richer than everyone else in town combined.

You also need to be careful when a sentence uses a conjunction. Often, a conjunction is used to link multiple comparisons together. If you are comparing two things multiple times, you should still use comparative adjectives.

 Correct: Abby is taller than Bill. (Abby’s height is a bigger measurement than Bill’s.)
 Also correct: Abby is taller than Bill and Charlie. (The conjunction and is linking two different comparisons: Abby’s height is a bigger number than Bill’s, and Abby’s height is a bigger number than Charlie’s, too. )

If you are comparing something to every other member of its group or saying that something has the highest or most extreme degree in general, use a superlative adjective and not a comparative adjective:

❌ Incorrect: Out of all of the animals in the zoo, the cheetahs are the faster.
 Correct: Out of all of the animals in the zoo, the cheetahs are the fastest.

2. When using comparative adjectives, it is grammatically incorrect to use both the -er ending and the word more/less at the same time. You must use an adjective’s correct comparative form. If an adjective can use either, you must only choose one.

❌ Incorrect: Chocolate ice cream is more tastier than vanilla ice cream.
 Correct: Chocolate ice cream is tastier than vanilla ice cream.

❌ Incorrect: She is more cleverer than she looks.
 Correct: She is cleverer than she looks or She is more clever than she looks.

3. Unless it is acting as a subject complement together with a linking verb, a comparative adjective is usually preceded by an article or possessive.

❌ Incorrect: Of these two movies, I prefer shorter one.
 Correct: Of these two movies, I prefer the shorter one.

❌ Incorrect: She traded in her old car for newer one.
 Correct: She traded in her old car for a newer one.

 Incorrect: Harry is younger brother.
 Correct: Harry is William’s younger brother.

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