Comparative and Superlative Adverbs

Adverbs are used to modify adjectives adverbs and verbs, but what if we want to make a comparison between things by using these adverbs? Read more.

"Comparative and Superlative Adverbs" in the English Grammar

What Are Comparative and Superlative Adverbs?

Adverbs like adjectives, can have comparative and superlative forms.
Comparative adverbs are used to compare two actions or states, while superlative adverbs are used to make a comparison between one and other actions.

Which Adverbs Can Have Comparative Forms?

You should know that not all adverbs can have a comparative form. Only gradable adverbs (adverbs that can have higher or lower grades) can be used in a comparative degree. For example, slowly is a gradable adverb, because one can walk slowly, very slowly, or extremely slowly.
Some adverbs like really, completely, and totally are ungradable adverbs. They do not have higher or lower grades and therefore cannot be used to draw comparisons.

Adverbs: Degrees of Comparison

Several adverbs can be used in three different degrees of comparison:

  1. the positive degree
  2. the comparative degree
  3. the superlative degree

Positive Degree

The positive degree is the normal form of an adjective or adverb, i.e. an adverb that does not make a comparison is in the positive degree.

  • slowly
  • naturally
  • gradually
  • well
  • fast
  • hard

Comparative Degree

The comparative degree of an adverb is used for comparing two adverbs, i.e. it shows the greater or lesser degree of adverbs. Let's see how we can make this form:

Comparative: One-syllable Adverbs

When the adverb has only one syllable, you need to add the suffix -er to make it comparative.

  • fast → faster
  • hard → harder
  • late → later
  • low → lower
  • near → nearer
  • high → higher

Comparative: Two-syllable Adverbs

If the adverb has two or more syllables, add the determiner 'more' before the adverb to make it comparative.

  • carefully → more carefully
  • happily → more happily
  • sadly → more sadly
  • slowly → more slowly
  • quickly → more quickly
  • beautifully → more beautifully

You can also use the determiner 'less' before the adverb to suggest a reduction in the action.

  • sadly → less sadly
  • slowly → less slowly
  • quickly → less quickly

Comparative: Irregular Adverbs

Some adverbs have irregular comparative degree forms:

  • well → better
  • badly → worse
  • early → earlier
  • little → less
  • much → more
  • far → further/farther

Comparative Adverbs: Informal Forms

Sometimes native speakers in informal situations drop the -ly from adverbs. This is also true for their comparative forms. There is one standard or correct way and one nonstandard or incorrect way. It is better to avoid using the nonstandard form in formal situations.

Standard/correct Nonstandard/incorrect
loudly/more loudly loud/louder
quickly/more quickly quick/quicker
slowly/more slowly slow/slower

using the comparative form of the adverb 'fast'

Comparative Degree: Using 'than'

When we want to compare two persons or things, we use 'than.'

He got a better score than me; he studied much harder than me.

Instead of saying 'than + object pronoun, you can use the subject pronoun with an auxiliary or modal verb in formal English.

He got a better score than me; he studied much harder than I did.

Comparative Degree: Using 'as … as'

Use the structure as + adverb + as if you want to express two persons or things as equal or not equal.

I work as hard as any other student in my class.

Shyla cannot sing as beautifully as her sister.

Superlative Degree

The superlative degree of an adverb is used for comparing an action or situation with all the others in the same category, i.e. it shows the greatest or least degree of adverbs. Let's see how we can make this form:

Superlative: One-syllable Adverbs

When the adverb has only one syllable, you need to add the suffix -est to make it superlative.

  • fast → fastest
  • hard → hardest
  • late → latest
  • low → lowest
  • near → nearest
  • high → highest

Superlative: Two-syllable Adverbs

If the adverb has two or more syllables, add the determiner 'most' before the adverb to make it superlative.

  • carefully → most carefully
  • happily → most happily
  • sadly → most sadly
  • slowly → most slowly
  • quickly → most quickly
  • beautifully → most beautifully

You can also use the determiner 'least' before the adverb to suggest a reduction in the action.

  • sadly → least sadly
  • slowly → least slowly
  • quickly → least quickly

Superlative: Irregular Adverbs

Some adverbs have irregular superlative degree forms:

  1. well → best
  2. badly → worst
  3. early → earliest
  4. little → least
  5. far → furthest/farthest

Double Comparative/Superlative

Avoid making the mistake of using a double comparative or a double superlative. This is more commonly done with the comparative and superlative adjectives but it can also happen with adverbs too.

Without a doubt, the last question on the test was the most hardest.

Here you can see a double superlative. 'Hardest' is the superlative form of 'hard.' Using the word 'most' is a mistake.

Review

Each adverb has three aspects one is the positive form which is the normal form of the adverb the other is the comparative form which shows how an adverb is in the prior level and the last one is the superlative form of an adverb. To make superlative adverbs there are three possibilities:

  • one-syllable adverbs
  • two-syllable adverbs
  • irregular adverbs

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