This guide is something that a teacher can use as a reference or study tool for students at the middle or high school levels. Students themselves may be able to make use of it, particularly once the teacher explains the basic concepts of adjectives. Although the overview we provide here will go over comparative adjectives specifically, we will take some time to mention other types of words that fall into the broad category of adjectives where appropriate. The guide will not make assumptions about the prior knowledge of particular students, so the introduction will cover some of the foundational knowledge necessary for recognizing or forming adjectives generally, and then we will move on to comparative versions.
In their most basic sense, it may be helpful to think of adjectives as helpers for nouns. Just as a refresher, remember that nouns are words in English that denote people, places, or things. Adjectives can amplify nouns by adding descriptions that can make the nouns more unique or memorable. Thinking of them as descriptive helpers is probably useful for most students. However, in a technical sense, adjectives tell the reader or listener what the state the noun is in at the time. They can also describe qualities that the noun has, and we can provide examples of comparative adjectives to show how they would work here, in our next section.
A basic adjective would describe something in a concrete sense against itself, in a way. For example, in the sentence Critics consider Citizen Kane to be an important piece of art, you can tell the state or quality of the film thanks to the adjective. In this case, Citizen Kane is the film, and it has a quality of greatness about it.
To take another example, we can say that weather in London is often bleak or rainy. In this example, you have two adjectives that express a related idea in slightly different ways. The weather in London means that it can be rainy quite often. This rain can lead to overcast skies or a sense that the whole atmosphere of the city is rather bleak for most people.
Before we move on to examples of comparative adjectives, students should be aware of the proper placement of adjectives in general. Thanks to the mechanics of the English language, you will most often put the adjectival forms right before the noun they help to describe.
You saw examples of either one or two adjectives to describe different things in the previous section. However, you can also use a different category of adjectives to compare or contrast two or more nouns, too. When you do this, you are using examples of comparative adjectives. As the name suggests, they compare two things, but you can also use them as a way to differentiate the specific degrees of the qualities you are describing between the two nouns.
In order to do either of these things, you need to start with the base adjective. Once you have it, you will add the -er suffix to the end of it. For example, you might see two apples sitting next to each other on top of a table. If you look closer, you may see that they are both red, but each one is a different shade of red. Should you wish to describe these differences to someone else, you might say:
They are both red, but one has more of a red hue to it, so you want to use comparative adjectives to make this point.
Not every adjective that you can use to form comparison is something you can form with the -er ending. In cases like these, you’ll need to add the word more prior to the use of the base adjective you will insert for a comparison. If we take an example of this, let us say you are viewing two paintings. You like one of them better than the other, and it speaks to your personal taste. To get this idea across, you might say:
We cannot add the -er ending to the word beautiful. However, we can put another word in front of it to make it an example of a comparative adjective. Note that, when you do add an extra word to transform the base adjective, you also need to add than as a way to make the comparison between item one and item two clear to the reader or listener.
You can compare more than two things with this type of adjective, but the result will still need to follow the same mechanics. For example, you might say:
In this sentence, we are moving toward another type of adjective form that we call superlative. However, superlative adjectives describe things that have the highest qualities among a group. While we could do this here with the example we gave, you’ll notice that we don’t know for sure if Alfred’s bike is better than either Joe or Susan’s bikes in all ways. We only know that it is faster, but there could be other bikes in the group that are even faster than Alfred’s, too.
Yes, there are several other types of adjectives that you might come across in writing. One of them, the superlative, we have mentioned already. Other adjectives you might see can include predicate adjectives, compound adjectives, descriptive adjectives, interrogative adjectives, and possessive adjectives. This short list is just a few more of the adjectives you’re sure to come across in your English reading assignments.