Today we will practice some English grammar, specifically around comparative adjectives. Given all the coronavirus reporting, we thought we would explain the English vocabulary being used, things like Biggest, Strongest and when this language is suitable and correct.
There seem to be a lot of extreme events being reported on the TV at the moment, from the financial markets to the impact corona virus is having on people and their lives. Interestingly, even native English-speaking reporters whose job it is to use the English language to explain what is going on are not always using the correct English language!
Along the way the reporters have been using more extreme language comparing the events to past events, where, for example, a market crash in 2008 was big, but the 1987 crash was bigger and now we are experiencing the biggest crash since the 1929 crash.
So today we cover some examples of comparative adjectives and the rules for using them in everyday English conversation.
Uncountable Pinkest Pinker
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Hi there and welcome to Adept English! Learn grammar with us today – let’s learn some useful grammar. It seems like spring at last in the UK, which is nice to see, as it feels as though it’s been a long winter. It’s not officially spring until 21st March, but it’s good to see that flowers are starting to come out in the garden and the weather’s a bit nicer. We’re all worried about corona virus, but it’s good to be out in nature, if you can. And there is some evidence to suggest that Vitamin D, which you get from sunlight, increases your resistance to the illness – so sit in the sun for a bit to help your immunity, if you can!
So you can learn English grammar online through this podcast. But of course we’ll do it using our ‘listen and learn’ method. This way the grammar is much more likely to be something you remember, if it’s something you’ve heard – and you repeat your listening. Let’s have a look today at ‘comparative adjectives’. Let’s look at basic English grammar rules with examples.
Even if you don’t know that name, ‘comparative adjectives’, you’ll probably be aware of some parts of this grammar rule already. So an ‘adjective’ if you remember, is a describing word, like ‘small’ or ‘red’ or ‘noisy’. And ‘comparative’ means ‘to do with comparing’ – so the verb ‘to compare’ means that you look at two or more things or people – and you measure them against one another. So you might say ‘Your dog is bigger than my dog’, or ‘this girl is taller than that girl’. Or ‘My stomach is hungrier than your stomach’.
So in the first sentence, notice that the word ‘bigger’ comes from the adjective ‘big’, B-I-G. And if something is bigger, it means it has a greater size than something else. So for many adjectives which have one or two syllables, you can add -E-R on the end to make it a comparative adjective. And notice that comparative adjectives use the word ‘than’.
So ‘Your dog is bigger THAN my dog’. Notice also that it may be true that neither of the dogs is actually big – they could be both quite small dogs. It’s just that ‘Your dog is bigger than mine’. You could equally well say ‘My dog is smaller than yours’. So the kind of adjective that we use like this are ones where there’s a degree, there’s a range of ‘bigness’ or ‘smallness’. Some adjectives – it’s just ‘it is’ or ‘it isn’t – they’re less likely to be used as comparative adjectives.
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So there are many words that you can just add this -E-R ending to, for comparative adjectives. Most single syllable adjectives work like this. Single syllable means one sound – so adjectives like tall, becomes taller, young becomes younger, old becomes older. You can do it with most colours – you can say greener, bluer, whiter, blacker, pinker. But if you get into the less common colours, perhaps like turquoise or magenta, then you would say instead ‘more turquoise’ or ‘more magenta’. So simple adjectives with one syllable – you can usually add the -E-R ending to make a comparative adjective. ‘This house is nicer than that house.’ ‘Your car is faster than my car.’ ‘Your bag is fuller than mine.’
There are also some two syllable adjectives which can take the -E-R comparative form as well. So you can say ‘This road is narrow, but the road to your house is narrower’. Or ‘My larger dog is gentler than my smaller dog, when you give him treats’. So ‘gentle’ which ends in an E, just simply gets an R added to the end. It’s the same with ‘simple’ – S-I-M-P-L-E, that becomes ‘simpler’. ‘This way of making bread is simpler than that way of making bread’, for example. Words like ‘happy’, H-A-P-P-Y lose the Y on the end and gain a I-E-R so you get ‘happier’. ‘I’ll be happier when I’ve got the money in the bank!’. Another similar one is ‘friendly’, so you could say ‘My pub is friendlier than your pub’.
But if you’ve got an adjective of three syllables or more, or you’re not sure of whether you can add an -E-R to a two syllable adjective to make it comparative, the easier (there you are – ‘easier’!) and safe...safer way to do it is to just say ‘more’. So you can say ‘I’ll be happier when I’ve got the money in the bank’ or you can say ‘I will be more happy when I’ve got the money in the bank’. Or ‘My pub is more friendly than your pub’. So apart from some very common adjectives, where ‘more’ would sound pretty strange, usually adding ‘more’ to an adjective - that’s the safe option.
And of course, you’re probably aware of the other possibility here. You can have what’s known as a ‘superlative adjective’ also. So you can have big, bigger and biggest. You can only use this superlative form – that’s biggest, strongest, fastest, smartest – when there are at least three things. And of course the E-S-T on the end, means the most big, the most strong, the most fast, the most smart. Think of three Olympic athletes who’re waiting to receive their medals, standing on the podium.
The Bronze Medal goes to the person in 3rd place – so they’re fast. The silver medal goes to the one in second place – they’re faster. But the gold medal goes to the person who came first – they’re the fastest of all.
Even native English speakers make mistakes around this one. They’ll say things like ‘my eldest’ meaning ‘my eldest child’ when they’ve only got two children. If you’ve got two children, you should say ‘my elder child’ or ‘my younger child’. So it’s only if you’ve got three or more children that you can say ‘my eldest’ or ‘my youngest’.
A photograph of a group of people where you might use a comparative adjective to describe them.
And the rules for which adjectives you can add -E-S-T onto – well, they’re pretty much the same as for the -E-R ending. So you can have fastest, slowest, biggest, strongest, friendliest, gentlest, happiest, blackest, whitest, greenest, pinkest, sweetest, etc. But remember, it doesn’t work for three syllable adjectives at all – and there are many two syllable adjectives that you can’t do it with. Like ‘careful’, or ‘exciting’ or ‘excited’. With these, you would say ‘more careful’ or ‘most careful’, ‘more exciting’ or ‘most exciting’, ‘more excited’ or ‘most excited’. So on the whole it’s the simple common adjectives with one syllable where you are safest adding these -E-R or -E-S-T endings.
And of course, in English the most irregular words, the ones which don’t follow the patterns are often the most common words. Or the commonest words – that one works! That’s a two syllable adjective where you can add -E-S-T.
So, shall I run through these with some examples, the ones that it’s good to learn, because they don’t follow the pattern?
good – better – best. ‘My cooking is good, but my sister’s cooking is better than mine and my mum’s cooking is the best of all.’
Or what about bad – worse – worst? Here’s an example:- This camping holiday is really bad, but the camping holiday where it rained for a week was worse. And the worst camping holiday was when our tent blew away and we were licked by cows.
What about many – more – most? These trees have many apples. But the trees on the edge of the field have more apples and the trees with the most apples grow by the river. That sounds a lovely, buccolic scene, doesn’t it?!
And lastly little – less – least I like a little butter for my bread, you like less butter and my brother likes the least butter of all.
Notice ‘less’ and ‘least’ only works for ‘uncountable nouns’. So ‘uncountable nouns’ are substances like butter, air, water, traffic. If you’re talking about countable nouns, like cars, tomatoes, cakes, buildings, people, you would use few, fewer and fewest instead. And again, if you understand that one and get it right, you are ahead of many native speakers of English! Learn grammar with us – learn grammar online and be better at English grammar than native speakers!
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.