What is a Degree Of Comparison?

The degree of comparison is a term we use to describe the relational value of one thing compared to another. It’s a vital part of English grammar teaching.

How many degrees of comparison are there?

There are three main degrees of comparison – the positive degree, the comparative degree, and the excellent degree.

The positive degree isn’t a comparison, but it does tell us about the existence of a quality that someone or something has. The comparative degree is used to compare the quality of a value with another of its kind, often in another clause of a sentence. Finally, the excellent degree is the degree of comparison we use to compare the quality of something with many others.

Why are degrees of comparison necessary?

Degrees of comparison allows us to make sense of the order of things according to what adverb or adjective is used. For example, if someone is the fastest runner, we know that they beat everyone else. But if someone is a faster runner, this might mean that they are shorter than some, but not the fastest.

How do we form degrees of comparison?

Forming a degree of comparison depends on the word type and its form. Here’s a breakdown of how most degrees of comparison are created:


  • One syllable – For one-syllable adjectives, add ‘er’ for the comparative degree and ‘est’ for the superlative degree. For example, ‘smart,’ ‘smarter,’ and ‘smartest.’
  • One syllable ending in a vowel and a consonant – For these words, we need to add another consonant, then add ‘er’ or ‘est.’ For example, ‘big,’ ‘bigger,’ and ‘biggest.’
  • Adjectives that are more than one syllable – for these words, we don’t add onto the end of the term to form degrees of comparison. Instead, we need to add a comment in front of the adjective. So, for example, ‘most fabulous,’ ‘least fabulous,’ ‘more fabulous,’ and ‘less fabulous.’
  • Adjectives of more than one syllable that end in ‘y’ – For these words, we need to remove the ‘y’ and add ‘ier’ or ‘iest.’ For example, ‘funnier,’ ‘funniest.’
  • Irregular adjectives – These words don’t fit the rules. They include ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ where the degrees of comparison are ‘better,’ ‘best,’ and ‘worse,’ and ‘worst,’ respectively.


  • One syllable – Like adjectives, one-syllable adverbs have ‘er’ and ‘est’ added to the end. For example, ‘slow,’ ‘slower,’ and ‘slowest.’
  • More than one syllable – Where and adverb has more than one syllable, we need to add a word in front. So ‘agile’ would become ‘more agile,’ ‘less agile,’ ‘most agile,’ or ‘least agile.’
  • Irregular – Irregular adverbs that don’t abide by the rules include ‘well,’ which has ‘better’ and ‘best’ as their degrees of comparison.

Things to look out for

When using degrees of comparison, it’s important to remember some fundamental rules, which we’ll lay out below:

  • Don’t use double comparatives and superlatives – You may be tempted to emphasize your point by adding ‘more’ or ‘most’ to a word that already has a suffix. But this would be a severe grammar error. Things like ‘longer’ and ‘longest’ are phrases where a double comparative or superlative has been used.
  • If there are two things, use the comparative degree – When there are only two things to compare, you should always use the relative degree rather than the superlative degree.
  • Words that can’t be compared – There are some words which degrees of comparison can’t be used for. Common examples include ‘dead’ and ‘single.’ Using degrees of comparison doesn’t make sense for these words.
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