A Way With Words: From bad to worse

A Way With Words: From bad to worse

December 15, 2015 Writing 1

It goes from bad to worse, to the worst.

Adjectives that is. Comparative and superlatives adjectives to be precise. Those sets of words that you use to modify nouns to varying degrees.

Comparative adjectives use -er or are paired with “more.” Superlative adjectives identify the greatest amount or degree and take the -est suffix and “most” modifier.

Regular comparative adjectives use the same base word and simply add suffixes and modifiers.

  • tall > taller > tallest
  • pretty > prettier > prettiest
  • purple > more purple > most purple
  • understanding > more understanding > most understanding.
  • red > redder > reddest

Sunflowers are tall plants.
Cornstalks are taller plants than sunflowers.
Redwoods are the tallest trees.

When using irregular comparative adjectives, each progression or degree is a new word.

  • bad > worse > worst
  • good > better > best
  • little > less > least
  • much/many/some > more > most

You are a bad driver, but Joe is a worse driver than you.
Carol is the worst driver of all.
Joe is a good singer.
John is a better singer than Carol.
Pete is the best singer in class.

Note that when using a comparative adjective in a sentence, you use the conjunction, “than” between the nouns being compared.

Knowing when to use the -er and -est suffixes, or “more” and “most” modifiers is not too tricky.

  • For single syllable adjectives – use -er and -est
  • For two-syllable adjectives ending in y – drop the y, and add “ier” or “iest”
  • For two-syllable adjectives not ending in y – use “more” and “most”
  • For three or more syllable adjectives – use “more” and “most”
  • For words ending in a consonant/vowel/consonant – double the consonant and add “er” and “est”


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