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The Write Stuff: Adjective Comparisons

April 9, 2013

Adjectives allow us to show levels of comparison—positive, comparative, superlative—in people and objects. Examples include tall, taller, tallest, and popular, more popular, most popular.

But comparisons can trip us up. When do we add  –er or –est? And when do we go with more or most? For instance, should we write fairer or more fair for the comparative? Should we say fairest or most fair for the superlative?

If the adjective has just one syllable, add –er or –est. For example, fair becomes fairer and fairest. Big becomes bigger and biggest.

Many words with two syllables also add –er and –est, but not all. When in doubt, consult a good dictionary. Examples of two syllable words include happy, happier and happiest, and eager, more eager and most eager.

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