Whether you take note of them or not, you make use of various parts of speech ever day – it's not as if you consciously think about the grammar that you are using, but it is there. But what happens if you would like to know more about grammar – or perhaps you are planning to teach English to foreigners and have to know. Suddenly you may not feel so at home with your home language as what you thought – but no need to worry, there is no need to be a walking textbook. This simple guide will give you a reminder of the deeper workings of the language that you use every day. Whether you need to know yourself or need to explain it to someone else, the simple guide to adjectives is all you need.

What are comparatives and superlatives?

Comparatives are modified adjectives that are used to compare two nouns in terms of the same characteristic (John is taller than James; Today is warmer than yesterday).

Superlatives are modified adjectives that are used to indicate the furtherest extreme of a characteristic in a specific context (Today is the coldest day of the year; Jill is the shortest in the classroom).

General Rules

Knowing how to turn each adjective into a comparative and a superlative can be tricky, but by following 5 simple rules you should have the hang of it in no time:

1. Consonant(s) after a vowel = Adjective + ER or EST (great-greater-greatest, fast-faster-fastest)

2. Single consonant after a short vowel sound (the vowel is pronounced in lowercase form) = Double the consonant + ER or EST (hot-hotter-hottest, fat-fatter-fattest)

3. Adjectives ending with a Y after a consonant = change Y to I + ER or EST (jolly-jollier-jolliest, happy-happier-happiest)

4. Single syllable adjectives ending with E = Adjective + R or ST (strange-stranger-strangest, late-later-latest)

5. If a word has more than two syllables + the above rules don't apply = add MORE or MOST before the adjective (beautiful-more beautiful-most beautiful, confused-more confused-most confused)

Keep in mind

It is important to remember that comparatives and superlatives require contexts. A comparative requires the word THAN as it is a comparison between nouns, and a superlative requires an explanation such as "He is the fastest in his athletics club".

It must also be noted that, as is usual with the English language, certain exceptions exist – most of these are called irregular adjectives and require some practice and experience to remember. Examples: good-better-best, bad-worse-worst, far-further-furthest.