Comparative adjectives are used to compare differences between the two objects they modify: larger, smaller, faster, higher.
- England is smaller than Australia.
- Australia is larger / bigger than England.
1. Usually, we add ‘-er’ – so ‘small’ becomes ‘smaller’.
2. If the adjective ends in ‘e’, we just add ‘-r’ – so ‘large’ becomes ‘larger’.
3. If the adjective has a ‘consonant-vowel-consonant’ pattern, we double the final consonant and then add ‘-er’. ‘Big’ becomes ‘bigger’ (and ‘hot’ becomes ‘hotter’).
- – José: Spanish is easier than Arabic.
- – Ahmed: No! Spanish is more difficult than Arabic!
1. With two-syllable adjectives where the second syllable is unstressed, we add ‘-er’ – so ‘small’ becomes ‘smaller’.
2. With two-syllable adjectives ending in ‘y’, there is a spelling change. ‘Easy’ becomes ‘easier’ (and ‘busy’ becomes ‘busier’).
3. With two-syllable adjectives ending in ‘-ful’, ‘-less’ and ‘-ing’, two-syllable adjectives where the second syllable is stressed, and longer adjectives , we use [more + base adjective] – so ‘boring’ becomes ‘more boring’ (and ‘interesting’ becomes ‘more interesting’).
We can also use [less + base adjective]:
- Arabic is less difficult than Spanish!
Some common adjectives have irregular comparative forms:
‘good’ becomes ‘better’, ‘bad’ becomes ‘worse’ and ‘far’ becomes ‘further’ or ‘farther’.
Here’s a useful video from EngVid explaining how to form comparative adjectives:
In English, there are some structures with different types of comparative adjectives that can be used to compare things or ideas with various meaning.
[much / a lot / far + comparative adjective]
- Australia is much bigger than England.
- Australia is a lot bigger than England.
- Australia is far bigger than England.
(We don’t say ‘Australia is very bigger than England’.)
[a bit / slightly / a little (bit) + comparative adjective]
- Portugal is a bit bigger than Austria.
- Portugal is slightly bigger than Austria.
- Portugal is a little (bit) bigger than Austria.
(Not) as… as…
To compare two things, we can also use:
[as + adjective + as] or [not as + adjective + as]
- England is not as big as Australia.(This means the same thing as ‘Australia is bigger than England’.)
We use the positive form to say that two things are equal:
- Today is as hot as yesterday.
- (The two days were the same temperature.)
(Not) the same as… / Different from / to…
- Life in England is not the same as life in Australia.(Life in England is different from / to life in Australia).
Like / As
We can use ‘like’ to talk about things which are similar or the same:
- It’s raining again. I hate weather like this.
- My sisters are both teachers like me.
- He can swim like a fish.
We use [like + noun / pronoun]. We can’t use ‘as’ in this way:
I hate weather as this. My sisters are both teachers as me. He can swim as a fish.
Sometimes we can use either ‘like’ or ‘as’:
- Everything went just as I had planned.
- Everything went just like I had planned.
We use [as + subject + verb].
More and more…
We can use ‘double comparatives’ to talk about changes:
- I must stop eating so much chocolate. I’m getting fatter and fatter.
- Apartments in the city center have become more and more expensive.
The … the …
We can also use comparatives to talk about things which change together:
- The hotter the weather (is), the less energetic I feel.
- The more you practise, the easier it is.
We use [the + comparative + subject + verb].
Watch this video from Master IELTS about different comparative structures: