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Superlative :

Adjectives can express degrees of modification:

  • Gladys is a rich woman, but Josie is richer than Gladys, and Sadie is the richest woman in town.

  • The degrees of comparison are known as
    the positive, the comparative, and the superlative. (Actually, only the comparative and superlative show degrees.) We use the comparative for comparing two things and the superlative for comparing three or more things. Notice that the word than frequently accompanies the comparative and the word the precedes the superlative. The inflected suffixes -er and -est suffice to form most comparatives and superlatives, although we need -ier and -iest when a two-syllable adjective ends in y (happier and happiest); otherwise we use more and most when an adjective has more than one syllable.

    Positive Comparative Superlative
    rich richer richest
    lovely lovelier loveliest
    beautiful more beautiful most beautiful

    Certain adjectives have irregular forms in the comparative and superlative degrees:

    Irregular Comparative and Superlative Forms
    good better best
    bad worse worst
    little less least
    more most
    far further furthest

    Be careful not to form comparatives or superlatives of adjectives which already express an extreme of comparison — unique, for instance — although it probably is possible to form comparative forms of most adjectives: something can be more perfect, and someone can have a fuller figure. People who argue that one woman cannot be more pregnant than another have never been nine-months pregnant with twins.

    According to Bryan Garner, "complete" is one of those adjectives that does
    not admit of comparative degrees. We could say, however, "more nearly complete." I am sure that I have not been consistent in my application of this principle in the Guide (I can hear myself, now, saying something like "less adequate" or "more preferable" or "less fatal"). Other adjectives that Garner would include in this list are as follows:

    absolute impossible principal
    adequate inevitable stationary
    chief irrevocable sufficient
    complete main unanimous
    devoid manifest unavoidable
    entire minor unbroken
    fatal paramount unique
    final perpetual universal
    ideal preferable whole

    English Glossary Index

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