Get Ready for B1: Comparatives And Superlatives
Using comparatives and superlatives is a requirement at B1 level, so we’re going to go over the rules here. Let’s start with the basics.
Use than when you make comparisons:
London is bigger than Manchester.
Use the before all superlatives:
London is the biggest city in the UK.
Those rules always apply. Now we need to go into more detail, so we’re going to look at syllables. What’s a syllable? Here’s the Oxford English Dictionary definition:
‘A unit of pronunciation having one vowel sound, with or without surrounding consonants, forming the whole or a part of a word; for example, there are two syllables in water and three in inferno.’
So it’s a sound unit in a word. For example, the word ‘syllable’ has three syllables: syl-la-ble. And how we form comparatives and superlatives depends on how many syllables there are in an adjective. So here we go!
The classes are smaller here than at my old school
They start later.
The biggest difference is the lessons.
Add er to form a comparative and est to form the superlative.
Just add r and st if the adjective already ends in ‘e’.
Sometimes you have to double the last consonant before adding the endings (big – bigger – biggest).
Two-syllable adjectives ending in ‘y’
It’s easier to go by train than bus.
Driving is probably the easiest way to get there.
First change ‘y’ to i. Then add er to form a comparative and add est to form the superlative.
Two-syllable adjectives not ending in ‘y’, and adjectives with three or more syllables
This city is more modern than my hometown.
I want to get a more interesting job.
The most difficult thing about my job is the timetable.
Put more before the adjective to form a comparative and the most before the adjective to form the superlative. You must always do this for all three-syllable words. There are a few two-syllable words that can take either more/most or er/est. Here are some examples:
clever – cleverer or more clever – the cleverest or the most clever
stupid – stupider or more stupid – the stupidest or the most stupid
polite – politer or more polite – the politest or the most polite
However, these words are in the minority. So we recommend you to follow the more/most rule for all two-syllable words. That way you’ll never be wrong.
You can also use the opposite forms: less and the least.
My hometown is less modern than this city.
The least interesting part of my job is doing the paperwork.
I hope you get a better salary in your new job.
The worst thing about London is the traffic.
My new college is further from home.
There are no rules for irregular adjectives, so you just have to learn them:
good – better – the best
bad – worse – the worst
far – further – the furthest
Another type of comparative
My son is as old as your daughter (they’re the same age).
But he’s not as tall as your daughter (he’s shorter than she is or she’s taller than he is).
We can also use (not) as + adjective + as to compare people and things. Remember, you use this form with the base adjective, not with a comparative adjective (for example, ‘tall’, not ‘taller’).
Comparatives and superlatives: Practice Exercise
(Answers at the bottom of the page.)
It’s time to get a pen and paper, as we’re going to practise this the old-fashioned way!
Complete these sentences with the appropriate comparative. For example:
Spanish grammar is (easy) than English grammar.
Spanish grammar is easier than English grammar.
- Hardy was (fat) than Laurel.
- This college is (small) than my university.
- Some of the subjects are (boring) than in my old school.
- The lessons are (difficult) than they were last year.
- This film is (bad) than the one we saw yesterday.
Now rewrite answers 1-5 using not as … as. For example:
Spanish grammar is easier than English grammar.
Spanish grammar isn’t as difficult as English grammar.
NOTE: you’ll need to use opposite adjectives.
Complete these sentences with the appropriate superlative. Remember to use the. For example:
I think Barcelona is (good) city in Spain.
I think Barcelona is the best city in Spain.
- That was (happy) day of my life!
- New Zealand is (far) country from Spain.
- I think talk shows are (bad) TV programmes.
- Sara is (popular) student in the class.
- February is (short) month.
Look under the heading ‘Get ready for B1’ for more basic grammar and vocabulary practice.
Or vocabulary exercises at pre-B1 level, like Get Ready for B1: Talking about Family.
You’ll find the complete list in the Guide to the Posts.
If you want more grammar practice, we recommend the excellent ‘English in Use’ series published by Cambridge.
- Hardy was fatter than Laurel.
- This college is smaller than my university.
- Some of the subjects are more boring than in my old school.
- The lessons are more difficult than they were last year.
- This film is worse than the one we saw yesterday.
Comparatives with not as … as
- Hardy wasn’t as thin as Laurel.
- This college isn’t as big as my university.
- Some of the subjects aren’t as interesting as in my old school.
- The lessons aren’t as easy as they were last year.
- This film isn’t as good as the one we saw yesterday.
- That was the happiest day of my life!
- New Zealand is the furthest country from Spain.
- I think talk shows are the worst TV programmes.
- Sara is the most popular student in the class.
- February is the shortest month.