Comparative / Superlative Adjective and Adverb

Learn how to use them

Language of comparison and contrast

In Describe Image items, you are likely to be presented with a graph. In these cases, it is important that you show appropriate relationships by comparing and contrasting the information contained in the graphs. Let’s see how you can use language of comparison and contrast.

Comparative adjectives: Use these when comparing two nouns and can be formed as follows:

  • Adjectives with one syllable: add ‘-r/-er’ (e.g. higher, larger, bigger).
  • Adjectives with two syllables ending in ‘-y’: change the ‘y’ and add ‘-ier’ (e.g. happier, prettier).
  • Adjectives ending in ‘-ed’ or ‘-ing’ and most adjectives with two syllables: add ‘more’ before the adjective (e.g. more boring, more crowded, more common, more peaceful).
  • Adjectives with three or more syllables: use ‘more’ before the adjective (e.g. more attractive, more successful).
  • Include ‘than’ as part of your sentence (e.g. It is more expensive to live in a city than in a small town).

Superlative adjectives: Use these when describing a noun that is at the highest or lowest limit of a group. They can be formed as follows:

  • Adjectives with one syllable: add ‘-st/-est’ (e.g. highest, largest, biggest).
  • Adjectives with two syllables ending in ‘-y’: change the ‘y’ and add ‘-iest’ (e.g. happiest, prettiest).
  • Adjectives ending in ‘-ed’ or ‘-ing’ and most adjectives with two syllables: add ‘the most’ before the adjective (e.g. the most boring, the most crowded, the most common, the most peaceful).
  • Adjectives with three or more syllables: use ‘the most’ before the adjective (e.g. the most attractive, the most successful).
  • Remember to include ‘the’ before the adjective or most (e.g. This was the cheapest car I could find.).

Comparative/superlative adverbs: The rules above apply when the comparison requires the use of an adverb. Examples:

  • I usually speak more quickly than my friends.
  • The students often work harder towards the end of the semester.
  • You can contact me the easiest by text.
  • The team played the best they could, but they didn’t win the match.

as … as: Use this structure when the two nouns being compared are equal in some form. The adjective does not change. Examples:

  • Divorce rates are twice as high as they were last year.
  • This room is as big as the one next door.

This structure can also be used with adverbs to compare two actions:

  • We didn’t finish as quickly as we’d hoped.
  • The presenter spoke as enthusiastically as he possibly could.

Comparison and contrast language is especially useful for Describe Image tasks. Look at some example sentences from student responses to this item type:

  • The land allocated for the public park is significantly smaller than the land allocated for the school.
  • The roads are much busier during June than they are in December.
  • The most important export for this country is oil.

© Macquarie University

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