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21.12 Irregular Adjectives

In English, adjectives have comparative and superlative forms that are used to more exactly describe nouns.

Example

Joey is tall, Pete is taller than Joey, and Malik is the tallest of the three boys.

One common way to form the comparative and superlative forms is to add -er and -est, respectively, as shown in the preceding example. A second common method is to use the words more and most or less and least, as shown in the following example.

Example

Lucy is eager to start, Callie is more eager, and Shannon is the most eager.

Some adjectives do not follow these two common methods of forming comparatives and superlatives. You will simply have to learn these irregular adjectives by heart. Some of them are listed Table 21.2 "Sample Adjectives That Form Superlatives Using Irregular Patterns". Notice that some are irregular when used with a certain meaning and not when used with a different meaning. See Chapter 20 "Grammar", Section 20.6.3 "Using Comparatives and Superlatives" for more examples of irregular adjectives.

Table 21.2 Sample Adjectives That Form Superlatives Using Irregular Patterns

much (noncount nouns) more most
many (count nouns) more most
little (size) littler littlest
little (number) less least
old (people and things) older oldest
old (family members) elder eldest

Some adjectives’ comparatives and superlatives can be formed with either -er and -est or with more and most (or less and least). In these cases, choose the version that works best within a given sentence.

Table 21.3 Sample Adjectives That Can Form Superlatives Using -er and -est or More and Most

clever cleverer cleverest
clever more clever most clever
gentle gentler gentlest
gentle more gentle most gentle
friendly friendlier friendliest
friendly more friendly most friendly
quiet quieter quietest
quiet more quiet most quiet
simple simpler simplest
simple more simple most simple

Some adjectives do not have comparative and superlative forms since the simplest form expresses the only possible form.

Sample Adjectives That Do Not Have Comparative and Superlative Forms

  • blind
  • dead
  • fatal
  • final
  • left
  • right
  • unique
  • universal
  • vertical
  • wrong