Comparatives and Superlatives

Adjectives and adverbs ending in -er or modified by the word more compare two items and ate known as comparative.

Adjectives or adverbs ending in -est or modified by the word most compare three or more items and are known as superlative.

Normally, -er and -est are added to one-syllable words.
-er and -est are added to two-syllable words unless the new word sounds awkward.

Correct: Everest is taller than Annapurna.
Incorrect: Everest is the taller of the three peaks.
(Three or more requires superlative.)

Correct: Annapurna is the tallest of the three peaks.

Correct: fairer prettier handsomestAwkward: famousest readier
Correct: most famous more ready

Use the modifiers more or most with all root words longer than two syllables as well as with Continue reading “Comparatives and Superlatives”

What’s the Correct Order for Multiple Adjectives?

When you list several adjectives in a row, there is a specific order in which they need to be written or spoken. Native speakers of English tend to put them in the correct order naturally so if it feels right it probably is right. In any case, it’s unlikely that this will hit a SPAG test any time soon.

I include this information for interest and because many, if not most, people will be unaware of the existence of any formal list of the order in which adjectives should appear when in a list before a noun. It doesn’t always ring true, either; the list says that observations/opinions should come before size but a native speaker might sometimes reverse this if it sounded better:

‘My dog has beautiful, big eyes,’


My dog has big, beautiful eyes,’

– you decide…

If you’re learning English, you’ll have to contend with memorising the order and it sometimes sounding awkward to a native speaker. For what it’s worth, here’s the list: Continue reading “What’s the Correct Order for Multiple Adjectives?”

Adjectives: definition and use…

An adjective is a kind of word, its job is to give us more information about a noun.

Adjectives describe nouns by giving information about its size, shape, age, colour, origin or material. In its simplest form an adjective can be found in a simple statement such as:

The soup is hot.
The glass was dirty

‘Soup’ and ‘glass’ are both nouns; ‘hot’ and ‘dirty’ are the adjectives which describe those nouns, increasing the information that we have about each of them. Within the context of a written passage an adjective will usually be found immediately before a noun.

In the sentence below  the nouns are ‘dog’ and ‘street’ The words that give us extra information about these nouns are ‘old and ‘dusty’ these words are adjectives.

The old dog walked down the dusty street.

We can, of course, use more than one adjective to describe a noun; when we do this, the adjectives are separated by commas. The commas go between the adjectives. Note there is no comma between the last adjective in the list and the following noun.

The old, brown dog walked down the dark, dusty street.

Why use adjectives?

Well, if you look at this cynically and clinically, using adjectives moves the standard of a pupil’s written work from Level 2 into the Level 3 camp. However, the use of adjectives also enables the writer to begin to affect the way the reader feels about the characters and events unfolding in the text.

The happy, smiling children watched as the warm sun rose over the green, rolling hills.

… can be  placed in apparent danger by simply substituting more evocative, ominous adjectives for the ones in the original sentence. This has the effect of creating tension – perhaps makes the reader wonder what might be about to happen…

The cold, shivering children watched as the feeble sun rose over the dark, ominous hills.

Pupils should be encouraged to use adjectives as the first step towards developing style…

The Adjective Detective
…all about adjectives

An interactive resource explaining adjectives, their function and use. The first section explains the use of adjectives and they placement both before a noun and after a noun using a ‘helper’ verb.

It goes on to further explain both comparative and superlative adjectives, the way they are formed and their use.

There is also an interactive quiz and a game for students to play in which adjectives need to be identified to progress through the game. This is a Flash based resource suitable for use on desk top computers and thus interactive whiteboards; it may not be suitable for use on all hand held devices or tablets.

Adjective Detective by the University of Manchester