Degrees of Comparison  

Definition

Just like adjectives, adverbs have comparative and superlative degrees; adverbs in their basic forms are sometimes known as being in the positive degree.
Comparative adverbs express a higher (or lower) degree of how an action is performed, usually in comparison to another person or thing.
Superlative adverbs, on the other hand, are used to identify the highest (or lowest) degree of how an action is performed.

Forming the comparative and superlative degrees

Adverbs are commonly categorized in three ways: one-syllable adverbs, “-ly” adverbs, and irregular adverbs. We create the comparative and superlative forms of each category in different ways.

One-syllable adverbs

One-syllable adverbs are formed into comparatives by adding the suffix “-er” to the end of the word. The superlative form is created by adding the suffix “-est” to the end.
Adverb (positive degree)
Comparative degree
Superlative degree
fast
faster
fastest
hard
harder
hardest
high
higher
highest
late
later*
latest*
long
longer
longest
low
lower
lowest
wide
wider*
widest*
(*Spelling note: When the adverb already ends in the letter “e,” simply add “-r” or “-st” to the end.)

Adverbs ending in “-ly”

Many adverbs are formed by adding “-ly” to the end of an adjective. If an adverb has been created according to this pattern, we simply use the words more and less to create the comparative degree, and we use the words most or least to make the superlative degree. For example:
Adjective
Adverb (positive degree)
Comparative degree
Superlative degree
careful
carefully
more/less carefully
most/least carefully
efficient
efficiently
more/less efficiently
most/least efficiently
happy
happily
more/less happily
most/least happily
horrible
horribly
more/less horribly
most/least horribly
recent
recently
more/less recently
most/least recently
sad
sadly
more/less sadly
most/least sadly
strange
strangely
more/less strangely
most/least strangely

Irregular adverbs

Of course, the rules we’ve just looked at have some exceptions, which are known as irregular adverbs. Below are the degrees of comparison for some of the most common irregular adverbs:
Irregular adverb (positive degree)
Comparative degree
Superlative degree
badly
worse
worst
early
earlier
earliest
far
farther/further
farthest/furthest*
little
less
least
well
better
best
(*Although farther/farthest and further/furthest are often used interchangeably, there are differences between them. In American English, farther/farthest is preferred when comparing physical distances, and further/furthest is preferred when comparing figurative distances; in British English, further/furthest is preferred for both uses.)
To learn more about irregular adverbs, see the chapter section covering Regular and Irregular Adverbs.

Adverbs with two forms

There are a few adverbs that have two generally accepted forms. In these cases, they also have two commonly used comparative and superlative degrees. Some of the most prevalent of these exceptions are:
Adverb (positive degree)
Comparative degree
Superlative degree
cheap or cheaply
cheaper or more/less cheaply
cheapest or most/least cheaply
loud or loudly
louder or more/less loudly
loudest or most/least loudly
quick or quickly
quicker or more/less quickly
quickest or most/least quickly
slow or slowly
slower or more/less slowly
slowest or most/least slowly
Quiz

1. Which of the following suffixes is used to shift a one-syllable adverb to the superlative degree?





2. Which of the following pairs of words is used to shift an “-ly” adverb to the comparative degree?





3. What is the comparative form of the irregular adverb well?





4. What is the superlative form of the adverb slowly?







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