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adverb comparison

In English, adverbs fall into the category called modifiers. (A modifier is a word that either describes or limits the meaning of the word it refers to. There are two main classes of modifiers: adjectives and adverbs.)

Adverb forms

Adverbs have three forms: positive, comparative and superlative.

The positive form is the adverb itself:

  • Eric worked hard at repairing the motorcycle.
  • Julia walked slowly along the path.

The comparative form is used to compare two actions:

  • Eric worked harder than Samantha.
  • Julia walked more slowly than Georg.

The superlative form is used to compare three or more actions:

  • Of the group of motorcyclists, Eric worked the hardest.
  • Julia walked the most slowly of all.

Rules for forming the comparative and superlative

The comparative is formed in the following ways:

  • For short adverbs (one syllable), add the ending ‑er: faster, harder.
  • For longer adverbs, use more before the adverb: more happily, more often.

The superlative is formed in the following ways: 

  • For short adverbs (one syllable), add the ending ‑est: fastest, hardest.
  • For longer adverbs, use most before the adverbs: most happily, most often.

Note: The adverb early is an exception. Although it is longer than one syllable, it forms its comparative and superlative forms by adding ‑er and ‑estearly, earlier, earliest.

Irregular comparative and superlative forms

The following table shows five common adverbs with irregular comparative and superlative forms:

Positive

Comparative

Superlative

badly

worse

worst

far

farther

farthest

little

less

least

much

more

most

well

better

best

Mistakes to avoid in using comparative and superlative adverbs

Don’t combine the two forms for the comparative or superlative. Use either more or ‑er (or most or ‑est), but not both:

  • better (not more better)
  • fastest (not most fastest)

Don’t use the superlative when comparing only two persons or things:

  • Who threw the ball farther, Jacob or Myriam? (not farthest)