Degrees of Comparison of Adverbs :
Adverbs have three degrees of comparison - the positive, the comparative, and the superlative.
Most adverbs are compared by means of more and most.
1. John came promptly. [Positive.]
2. Richard came more promptly than John. [Comparative.]
3. Henry came most promptly of all. [Superlative.]
A few adverbs are compared by means of the endings ER and EST.
Further Examples :
cheap, dear, early, fast, hard, high, long, loud, quick, slow, deep
Some adverbs are compared in both ways. Thus…..
often…..oftener or more often…..oftenest or most often
Several adverbs have irregular comparison.
nigh…..nigher…..nighest and next
late…..later…..latest and last
These adverbs in the main have the same forms as the adjectives studied HERE. .
(1) That good and bad are never adverbs.
(2) That ill and well, better and best and worse and worst may be either adverbs or adjectives.
(3) RATHER is now used in the comparative only.
Use of The Comparative Adverbs and The Superlative Adverbs
The comparative degree, not the superlative, is used in comparing two persons or things.
The superlative is used in comparing one person or thing with two or more.
Right : Mary is the more agreeable of the two.
Right : Mary is the most agreeable of all the family.
Wrong : I like both Mary and Jane. But I am fondest of Mary.
Wrong : I am studying Latin, history and geometry. But I dislike the latter.
The same principle applies to adverbs.
John runs faster than Tom. [Here the acts of two persons are compared.]
Which of you three can run fastest? [Here the acts of more than two are compared.]
Note : In older English the superlative sometimes occurs when only two objects are thought of. This use is still found in a few proverbial phrases such as….Put your best foot foremost.
The superlative is sometimes used merely for emphasis, without implying any definite comparison such as….My dearest Kate!
The superlative of emphasis is very common with most.
Most potent, grave, and reverend signiors. - Shakespeare
Justice had been most cruelly defrauded. - Wordsworth
Excessive use of this construction (like frequent repetition of very) is tiresome and weakens style.
Double comparison (as more worthier, most unkindest) is common in older English, but is now a gross error.
When two adjectives or adverbs are contrasted by means of than, MORE is used with the first.
1. Such indulgence is more kind than wise.
2. This scheme is more clever than honest.
3. He acts more boldly than discreetly.
Note : The adverb RATHER is often used with the first adjective or adverb (such as….rather kind than wise or kind rather than wise)….but in a slightly different sense.
Many adjectives and adverbs are, from their meaning, incapable of comparison. Such are…..
Adjectives expressing a quality as absolute or complete, and adverbs derived from such adjectives.
Examples : unique, universal, single, matchless, instantaneous, triangular, everlasting, infinite, mortal; uniquely, singly, eternally, mortally
The adverbs here, there, then, now, when, and the like.
Note : Words like perfect, exact, straight, etc., are commonly said to be incapable of comparison, but this is an error. For each of these words may vary in sense. When perfect (for example) denotes absolute perfection, it cannot be compared. But perfect has also another sense: namely, “partaking in a higher or lower degree of the qualities that make up absolute perfection," so that we may describe one statue as more perfect than another, or one of three statues as the most perfect of them all. In this use, which is unobjectionable, we simply admit that nothing in the world is absolutely flawless, and assert that the three statues approach ideal perfection in various degrees.
An adjective phrase may sometimes be compared by means of more and most.
1. I was never more out of humor [= more vexed].
2. I think your last suggestion most in keeping [= most appropriate].
Degrees of Comparison of Adverbs :
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Degrees of Comparison of Adverbs