General Grammar

Better, faster, stronger: fix your comparatives!

Have you been struggling with the use of better, faster, stronger? You don’t know whether you should say “more quickly” or “quicklier”? Or why we say “friendlier” but “more unfriendly”? Here’s an easy and quick guide to help you use comparatives more accurately

Adjectives and adverbs

The first thing to check is your understanding of what is an adjective and what is an adverb, because those behave a little bit differently when they are turned into comparatives

A way to distinguish adverbs is to look at the ending, as most adverbs end in “ly”: quickly, easily, beautifully, glamorously, shyly. But this doesn’t always work: “friendly” ends in -ly and is an adjective. And “fast” is also an adverb. Therefore, a better strategy is to look at the role of the words in a sentence:

1.An adjective gives us more information about a noun:

  • The weather in Vietnam is really hot in March: “hot” gives us more information about the weather in Vietnam.
  • Look at that beautiful scenery!: “beautiful’ gives us more information about the scenery
  • Thaï people are so friendly“friendly” tells us more about Thaï people

2. An adverb gives us more information about a verb:

  • The British speak too quickly for me: “quickly” gives us more information about the way the British speak.
  • I work really hard all winter to travel all summer: “hard” gives us more information about the way I work. *Careful, “hardly” is also an adverb but means the opposite!
  • I booked my plane tickets online very easily“easily” gives us more information about the way I booked my plane tickets.

How many syllables

The second point to take into consideration is the number of syllables.

One-syllable adjectives and adverbs

These behave the same way, as they take -er at the end. Beware of double consonants:

  • In Vietnam, the weather is hot in March, but it’s hotter in May
  • I work really hard, but my husband works harder.

Two-syllable adjectives that end in -y

When an adjective (and only and adjective), the comparative form is also made by adding -er at the end:

  • Learning English is easier than learning Cantonese –> ea-sy: 2 syllables, and it ends with a “y” –> +er: easier
  • The Thaïs are friendlier than the Dutch (no offense) –> friend-ly: 2 syllables, and it ends with a “y” –> + er: friendlier

Other two-syllable adjectives and adverbs

All other adjectives and adverbs that have 2 syllables need “more” in front of them to be transformed into comparatives. Compare:

  • With your direct flight to Bangkok, you arrived more quickly than me –> quick-ly has 2 syllables but it’s an adverb –> more quickly
  • Ho Chi Minh City is more modern than 20 years ago –> mo-dern has 2 syllables, it’s an adjective, but it doesn’t end in -y –> more quickly

Exceptions

Irregulars

Some adjectives and adverbs have irregular forms: good (adverb = well), bad (adverb = badly) and far

  • Your itinerary is better than mine (adjective)
  • She plays the guitar better than me (adverb)
  • The weather in Bali was worse than in Brisbane (adjective)
  • The Americans eat worse than the French (adverb)
  • Auckland is further from London than Kuala Lumpur (adjective)

Exceptions

In informal speech, some adjectives that end in -le or –ow also take the -er ending in the comparative form.

  • Little: She’s littler than you.
  • Narrow: The aisles on Ryanair planes are narrower than on KLM planes
  • Simple: It’s simpler to apply for a visa on arrival than to ask for a visa at the Embassy.
  • Clever: He’s cleverer than I thought!

Stupid

Stupid doesn’t normally fall into any of these categories, yet I’ve heard “stupider” time and again:

  • It seems that because of mass media, some people become stupider and stupider!

Repeating a comparative form

To express a change, we can repeat a comparative form to say that things are becoming “more and more” like this or like that:

  • The real estate development in Asia is going faster and faster
  • People in the US are becoming fatter and fatter
  • The average person reads less and less

Now practice!

Here are a few questions that you can try to answer to use comparative forms in context. You can post some of your answers in the comments sections, or on the Facebook Page (English Sunny Side)!

  • How can you compare life in your country today with how it was 20 years ago?
  • Do you prefer swimming in the sea or swimming in a pool? Why?
  • What’s your favorite way of travelling? Why?
  • Do you prefer travelling in Asia or travelling in South America? Why?
  • How has your life changed in the last 5 years?
  • Do you have more or less time than a few years ago? Why?

Would you like to discuss these questions and more in a one-on-one Skype session with me? Book a “chit chat” conversation class and I’ll make sure you use these comparatives correctly!

Book now!