What are Comparative and Superlative Adverbs?

What are Comparative Adverbs?

Comparative adverbs are a kind of adverb. The adverb’s job is to modify a verb, so we use a comparative adverb to compare two verb actions to reach another.

In both sentences, ‘fast’ is the adverb. In the second, ‘faster’ is the comparative adverb.

We use comparative adverbs when comparing two things, not three or more.

How do we make Comparative Adverbs?

Depending on the adverb, there are three ways to form a comparative adverb.

One-syllable adverbs

Forming a comparative adverb from a one-syllable adverb is simple. First, you add ‘er’ to the end of the adverb.

Adverb Comparative Adverb
fast Faster
quick Quicker
slow Slower
long longer
wide wider
wide wider
low lower

Most one-syllable adverbs have the same form as their adjective, which can sometimes be confusing for those learning adverbs and adjectives.

Positive Comparative
Adjective He took a slow walk. He took a slower walk.
Adverb He strolled. He walked slower.

Two-syllable adverbs

For adverbs with two or more syllables, we can make them comparative by putting ‘more’ or ‘less’ in front of the adverb.

Adverb Comparative Adverb
slowly more slowly / less slowly
thoughtfully more thoughtfully / less thoughtfully
carefully more carefully / less carefully
happily more happily / less happily
courageously more courageously / less courageously
bravely more bravely / less bravely
cowardly more cowardly / less cowardly
horribly more horribly / less horribly
recently more recently / less recently
strangely more strangely / less strangely
sadly more sadly / less sadly

We can also use ‘more’ or ‘less’ with time adverbs to show an increase or decrease in a particular action.

Adding the comparative adverb Possible meaning
She plays tennis often. Once a week.
Now, she plays tennis more often. Twice or three times a week.
Now, she plays tennis less often. Once every two weeks.

We can also use ‘more’ or ‘less’ with time adverbs for a simple comparison, just like the adverbs of manner.

She plays tennis more often than him.
She plays tennis less often than him.

Irregular Comparative Adverbs

Some adverbs don’t conform to these rules when we change them into comparative adverbs. Some don’t follow a particular pattern, so memorizing the individual words is the only way to learn them.

Adverb Comparative Adverb Example
badly worse They performed badly. / They performed worse on the night than they did in practice.
well better She understood the topic well. / She understood the topic better after some tutoring.
far further/farther The sun is far away. / The sun is further away than the moon.
little less There’s only a little time left. / There’s less time than before.
much more She appreciated it very much. / She appreciated it more than they knew.

Informal Comparative Adverbs

Some adverbs and comparative adverbs have a ‘formal’ version with the ‘ly’ and an informal version without it. They’re usually used in speech rather than in writing. Here are some examples:

Adverb Formal Comparative Adverb Informal Comparative Adverb
cheap/cheaply more cheaply cheaper
quick/quickly more quickly quicker
slow/slowly more slowly slower
loud/loudly more loudly louder
wide/widely more widely wider
happy/happily more happily happier

How do we use Comparative Adverbs?

We use comparative adverbs to compare two verb actions with one another. They usually show an increase or decrease in the action or that one thing is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than the other at the verb action. The comparative adverb is often followed by ‘than.’

Lions run fast, but cheetahs run faster.
Cheetahs fun faster than lions.
Lions don’t run faster than cheetahs.
Lions run more slowly than cheetahs.
He was better at playing chess.
He was better at playing chess than his opponent.
Plants grow more quickly when you water them in the right amount.
She laid out the plan more thoughtfully than anyone expected.
He took on the challenge more willingly than his teammates.
The teacher asked the class to speak more quietly.
The teacher asked the class if they could speak less loudly.

What are Superlative Adverbs?

Like superlative adjectives, superlative adverbs describe differences among three or more people, places, or things. Despite their similarities, there is a difference between superlative adjectives and superlative adverbs. Superlative adjectives are used to describe something as the highest or lowest degree. However, superlative adverbs are used to describe a person or thing’s action compared to several others.

It is common for superlative adverbs to be preceded by ‘the,’ but it is not a requirement.

Examples of superlative adverbs:

  • Mary is the best singer in the class.
  • James is the fastest runner in his age group.
  • Lily is the tallest girl out of all her friends.
  • Out of everyone in the office, Paul was most likely to call in sick.

Comparative and Superlative Adverbs

In the case of adverbs that end in -ly, you have to use more to form the comparative and most to form the superlative. For example:

Adverb Comparative Adverb Superlative Adverb
evenly more evenly most evenly
angrily more angrily most angrily
effortlessly more effortlessly most effortlessly
promptly more promptly most promptly
highly more highly most highly
smoothly more smoothly most smoothly

Here are some examples of these comparative and superlative adverbs in sentences:

The young girl sang more effortlessly than the rest of her class.

The young girl sang the most effortlessly of all her classmates.

The teacher arrived more promptly than usual.

The teacher arrived the most promptly out of the whole staff team.

The boy was praised more highly than his friend for his swimming.

The boy was praised most highly out of all his teammates.


Adverb Comparative Adverb Superlative Adverb
fast faster fastest
big bigger biggest
tall taller tallest
late later latest
soft softer softest
cool cooler coolest

Here are examples of these comparative and superlative adjectives in sentences:

Johnny was the fastest runner in his family.

Amber was taller than all of her classmates.

Amber was the tallest person in the class.

The boy thought he was cooler than all his friends.

The boy thought he was the coolest person in his friend group.

It’s important to note that if the adverb ends in e, it must be removed before adding the ending.

Adverb Comparative Adverb Superlative Adverb
large larger largest
wise wiser wisest

Similarly, adverbs ending in –y must be changed to I before adding the ending.

Adverb Comparative Adverb Superlative Adverb
pretty prettier prettiest
happy happier happiest
busy busier busiest
angry angrier angriest
clingy clingier clingiest
crazy crazier craziest

While these rules can apply to most adverbs, some adverbs have irregular comparative and superlative forms. Here are some examples of irregular comparative and superlative adverbs:

Adverb Comparative Adverb Superlative Adverb
badly worse worst
little less least
far farther/further farthest/furthest
good better best
many more most
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