An Overview of Comparative Modifiers in English

For both written and spoken communication, understanding modifiers is key to emphasizing information and adding details to your words. Adjectives and adverbs have comparative forms, which are important for showing similarities or differences between things. This article provides an overview of comparative modifiers in English grammar.

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    What Are Comparative Modifiers?

    A comparative adjective modifies a noun, typically when it describes two similar or inferior characteristics.

    A comparative adjective is often used to indicate differences in size, shape, color, or sound. Examples of comparative adjectives are smaller, sadder, lighter, rounder, louder, closer, and more.

    Why are Comparative Adjectives Important?

    Comparing things to each other is an integral part of human nature. There is a natural attraction to things that are alike and a natural aversion to things that are different.

    Comparing things means saying that one thing is better or worse than the other. This is where comparative adjectives come into play.

    In spoken and written communication, the use of comparative modifiers helps the listener and reader to understand the point of a speaker/writer. They are essential to highlight the difference or emphasize the amount or value of things.

    Rules to Form Comparative Modifiers

    Comparative modifiers are adjectives or adverbs used to compare one thing with another. The comparative and superlatives are usually formed based on the number of syllables in the adjective.

    Comparative modifiers are often followed by ‘than.’ Following are some of the standard rules for comparison modifiers:

    1. For most one syllable and certain two-syllable adjectives, you must add “-er” to the modifier.

    One-syllable Example: Big becomes ‘Bigger.’

    Two-syllable Example: Crazy becomes ‘Crazier.’

    2. Use the form “more/less + adjective” for the two-syllable adjectives that do not end in ‘-y’ and all three or more syllable adjectives.

    Example 1: She is prettier than in the picture.

    Example 2: The picnic was more exciting than the last one.

    3. Some irregular modifiers don’t fall under any specific rule and can be a word that is entirely different in the comparative form.

    Example 1: ‘Bad’ or ‘ill’ becomes worse.

    Example 2: ‘Little’ becomes less.

    person holding on red pen while writing on book
    Photo by lilartsy on Unsplash

    Types of Comparison Modifiers

    The three types of comparisons are Equal, Comparative, and Superlative. Comparisons can be made with adjectives and adverbs. And comparison modifiers are used to highlight how two or more items are different or similar.

    Let’s learn more about the types of comparison modifiers.

    1. Equal Comparison

    We use an adverb or adjective to show that two things have the same quality. Sharing the same quality in the same amount means two items are equal in a certain way. To demonstrate this comparison, we use the form ‘as adverb/adjective as.’

    Example with Adverb: She is working as quickly as you are.

    Example with Adjective: The book was as exciting as the movie.

    2. Comparative

    Comparing nouns (people, objects, etc.) to something else is one approach to describing them. You will need to use adjectives like shorter, bigger, more expensive, and less complicated when trying to compare things.

    However, both native and non-native speakers sometimes make the mistake of employing wrongly constructed comparison adjectives. It’s important to take note of the words ending in ‘-er’ and the ones preceding ‘more’ and ‘less’ before the modifier.

    Example 1: The house was bigger than we expected.

    Example 2: I bought a dress more expensive than the last one.

    3. Superlative

    Superlative adjectives are used to describe two or more nouns at the highest or lowest level of degree. The term ‘of’ is frequently used after superlatives.

    Forming the correct superlatives depends on the number of syllables in the adjective or adverb. The superlative modifiers often end with ‘-est’ or are preceded by ‘least’ and ‘most.’

    Example 1: Jenny is the oldest of the three sisters.

    Example 2: This is the most interesting movie I have ever watched.

    The Bottom Line

    When it comes to grammar in English, the language uses modifiers to complete sentences to illustrate comparisons.

    Learning how to form these comparison modifiers is essential and relatively easy once you know the fundamental rules! This article is a quick guide to help you get a good grasp of comparisons in grammar.

    An Overview of Comparative Modifiers in English

    Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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