The Language of Comparison
Below are some tips to consider when you make comparisons.
Comparing Two Things
When we compare two things, the comparing word will almost always end in er or re.
More of the students play volleyball than basketball.
This dog is older than her brother.
Comparing Three+ Things
When we compare 3+ things, the comparing word will always end in est or st.
She is my best friend.
He is the tallest high school basketball player in the nation.
It was the most interesting lecture I have ever attended.
Errors People Often Make When Comparing
- Using er/re instead of est/st, or vice versa.
Incorrect: He is the nicer person I know.
Correct: He is the nicest person I know.
Incorrect: This is the more beautiful river I have ever seen.
Correct: This is the most beautiful river I have ever seen.
- Not Knowing the Exceptions.
There are a few exceptions to er/re and est/st. The exceptions come from difficulties saying the word.
One Two Three+
good, well better best
bad, ill, evil worse worst
many, much more most
little less least
old elder* eldest*
*Used for people only. For anything else, use older, oldest.
Don’t make a comparison twice.
Incorrect: Her cat is more meaner than my cat.
Correct: Her cat is meaner than my cat.
Incorrect: That is the most ugliest goldfish I have ever seen.
Correct: That is the ugliest goldfish I have ever seen.
- Leaving out part of the comparison.
Don’t expect your readers to figure out your exact context.
Incorrect: They are the fastest basketball team.
Correct: They are the fastest basketball team in the tournament.
Incorrect: He is a better shot.
Correct: He is a better shot than anyone else in the company.
- Using unclear comparisons
Incorrect: She likes fishing more than her husband.
Does she like fishing more than she likes her husband?
Correct: She likes fishing more than her husband does.
Incorrect: His house is bigger than John.
Of course it is bigger! But make the comparison clear.
Correct: His house is bigger than John’s.
Correct: His house is bigger than John’s is.
- Leaving out do, is, or are
Incorrect: Light‐demanding tree species are more susceptible to lianas than shade‐tolerant trees.
The writers meant that lianas are more likely to grow on light-demanding trees than they are on shade-tolerant trees. According to this, however, shade-tolerant trees can grow on light-demanding trees.
Correct: Light‐demanding tree species are more susceptible to lianas than are shade‐tolerant tree species.
Incorrect: Our infielders have more homeruns than outfielders.
How many outfielders are there? Do the infielders have more homeruns than that number? Is that what the writer meant?
Correct: Our infielders have more homeruns than do the outfielders.
7. Than Then
Use than when making comparisons. thAn = compare.
Greta is smarter than Wendy.
Use then when meaning “next in time.” Then = timE.
We studied all morning in the library, then hit the basketball court.
Individual or Small Group Activity
Correct any comparison errors in the following sentences.
- She is the most prettiest girl in the class.
- John is the smartest.
- My elder daughter hates to read. (Assume two daughters.)
- The elephants of the savannah eat more vegetables than elephants in the jungle.
- Roberta smokes cigarettes more than Robert.
- He is the goodest bowler in the tournament this year.
- My eldest parakeet died yesterday. (Assume three parakeets.)
- I am feeling worst than I did last week.
- This is the most simple grammar exercise on the website.
- You will be auditioning for the role of the most evilest twin.
Individual or Small Group Activity
Complete the exercise: Trinidad and Tobago