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CHAPTER 23.  ADJECTIVES USED IN COMPARISONS: PART 2

1. Comparative and superlative forms of adjectives which do not use endings


Adjectives which follow the model of the French language do not use the endings er and est. Instead, the adjectives are preceded by the adverbs more and most.

a. Comparative forms: The use of More
The comparative form of an adjective which does not take endings is formed by placing the word more before the positive form of the adjective.
e.g. She is more intelligent than her sister.
      He is more determined than his brother.
In these examples, the comparative forms of the adjectives intelligent and determined have been formed by placing the word more before the positive forms of the adjectives.

See Exercise 1.

With the exception of two-syllable adjectives ending in y, most adjectives of more than one syllable form the comparative with the adverb more.

In addition, a few one-syllable adjectives, including one-syllable past participles used as adjectives, form the comparative with the adverb more.
e.g. This nail is more bent than that one.
      He is more skilled than his brother.
      She is more spoiled than her cousin.

The following table summarizes the formation of the comparative forms of English adjectives.

The Comparative forms of English Adjectives


Adjectives which take EndingsAdjectives used with More
  Most one-syllable adjectives,  A few one-syllable adjectives,
  e.g. strong, stronger  e.g. bent, more bent
   
  Two-syllable adjectives ending  Most adjectives of more than one
  in y, e.g. easy, easier,  syllable, e.g. graceful, more graceful
  and a few other two-syllable 
  adjectives, e.g. quiet, quieter 

i. The comparative form followed by Than
Adjectives which form the comparative with the adverb more are used in the same constructions as adjectives which form the comparative with the ending er.

The following examples illustrate the use of the two types of comparative form followed by than.
e.g. Tom is wiser than Ned.
      Tom is more intelligent than Ned.

      Parchment is stronger than paper.
      Parchment is more durable than paper.

See Exercise 2.

The following examples illustrate the use of the two types of comparative form followed by a noun, followed by than.
e.g. Kirby is a finer musician than Tim.
      Kirby is a more confident musician than Tim.

      Rubber is a tougher material than leather.
      Rubber is a more waterproof material than leather.

      She has better tools than we do.
      She has more expensive tools than we do.

See Exercise 3.

ii. Progressive comparisons
Like adjectives which take endings, adjectives which form the comparative with the adverb more can be used in progressive comparisons.

In the case of an adjective which takes endings, the comparative form of the adjective is repeated in a progressive comparison. However, in the case of an adjective which forms the comparative with more, only the word more is repeated. This construction is summarized below, followed by examples.

  noun, pronoun or  linking verb,        positive
  other expression    +  such as         +  more   +  and   +  more   +  form of
  representing thing  to grow or        adjective
  being described  to become         
           
  The park  is becoming  more  and  more  beautiful.
  The horses  grew  more  and  more  restless.

The following examples illustrate the use of the two types of comparative form in progressive comparisons.
e.g. Tom became angrier and angrier.
      Tom became more and more anxious.

      The stars grew brighter and brighter.
      The stars grew more and more brilliant.

See Exercise 4.

b. The use of Less
Adjectives which form the comparative with the adverb more may also be used in a similar way with the adverb less. Less and more have opposite meanings.

i. The construction Less ... Than
The following examples illustrate the use of adjectives preceded by less and followed by than.
e.g. Arnold is less confident than Charles is.
      The red bicycle is less expensive than the blue one.
The first example indicates that Arnold possesses a smaller degree of confidence than Charles does. The second example indicates that the red bicycle has a lower cost than the blue one.

See Exercise 5.

The following examples illustrate the use of adjectives preceded by less, and followed by a noun, followed by than.
e.g. He is a less well-known performer than his brother is.
      They found themselves in a less fortunate situation than they had expected.
In these examples, the adjectives well-known and fortunate are followed by the nouns performer and situation.

ii. The construction Not As ... As
In informal English, the following construction is often used:

         
      positive   
    not as   +  form of     +  as 
      adjective   
         
  e.g. He is  not as  reliable  as  his brother.

For adjectives which form the comparative with more, either the construction less ... than or the construction not as ... as may be used. The construction not as ... as is somewhat less formal than the construction less ... than.

For instance, the two sentences in each of the following pairs have the same meaning.
e.g. Formal: The red bicycle is less expensive than the blue one.
      Informal: The red bicycle is not as expensive as the blue one.

      Formal: Arnold is less confident than Charles is.
      Informal: Arnold is not as confident as Charles is.

For adjectives which form the comparative with the ending er, either the construction not as ... as, or the comparative form of an adjective of opposite meaning may be used.

For instance, the two sentences in each of the following pairs have similar meanings.
e.g. This chair is not as soft as that one.
      This chair is harder than that one.

      He is not as old as his sister.
      He is younger than his sister.

iii. The construction Less and Less
Both adjectives which take endings and adjectives which form the comparative with the adverb more can be used with the idiom less and less. This construction is summarized below, followed by examples.

  noun, pronoun or  linking verb,        positive
  other expression   +  such as       +  less   +  and   +  less   +  form of
  representing thing  to grow or        adjective
  being described  to become         
           
  The water  is becoming  less  and  less  rough.
  The situation  grew  less  and  less  predictable.

The meaning of these two examples can also be expressed as follows:
e.g. The water is becoming decreasingly rough.
      The situation grew decreasingly predictable.

See Exercise 6.

It should be noted that an adjective in a progressive comparison does not express exactly the same meaning as an adjective of opposite meaning used with the idiom less and less.

For instance, the following two sentences have somewhat different meanings.
e.g. The water is becoming less and less rough.
      The water is becoming calmer and calmer.

The adjectives rough and calm have opposite meanings. The first example implies that the water is still quite rough, but that it is becoming decreasingly rough. The second example implies that the water is already quite calm, but that it is becoming increasingly calm.

c. Superlative Forms
As illustrated in the following table, the superlative form of adjectives which do not use endings is formed by placing the word most before the positive form of the adjective.

Positive FormComparative FormSuperlative Form
  beautiful  more beautiful  most beautiful
  dangerous  more dangerous  most dangerous
  intelligent  more intelligent  most intelligent
  interesting  more interesting  most interesting

For example:
      She is the most intelligent child in the family.
      This is the most interesting book I have ever read.

Adjectives which form the superlative with the adverb most are used in the same constructions as adjectives which form the superlative with the ending est.

The following examples illustrate the use of the two types of superlative form preceded by the word the and followed by a noun.
e.g. Quebec is one of the oldest cities in Canada.
      Quebec is one of the most attractive cities in Canada.

      This is the hardest question on the test.
      This is the most difficult question on the test.

The following examples illustrate the use of the two types of superlative form preceded by a possessive adjective and followed by a noun.
e.g. This is his newest invention.
      This is his most recent invention.

      She is my closest friend.
      She is my most trusted friend.

See Exercise 7.

Adjectives which form the superlative with the adverb most may also be used in a similar way with the adverb least. Least and most have opposite meanings.
e.g. This is the least interesting book I have ever read.
      This is the least difficult question on the test.

 

2. The adjectives Many, Much, Few and Little used to compare quantities


a. The use of Many, Much, Few and Little with countable and uncountable nouns
The adjectives many and much have the same meaning, except that many is used with plural countable nouns, and much is used with uncountable nouns.
e.g. He has written many books.
      How much snow has fallen?
In these examples, books is a plural countable noun modified by many, and snow is an uncountable noun modified by much.

As pointed out in the previous chapter, the two adjectives many and much have the same comparative form, more, and the same superlative form, most. More and most can be used to modify both countable and uncountable nouns.

Similarly, the adjectives few and little have the same meaning, except that few is used with plural countable nouns, and little is used with uncountable nouns.
e.g. I made few mistakes.
      They have little hope of success.
In these examples, mistakes is a plural countable noun modified by few, and hope is an uncountable noun modified by little.

The comparative and superlative forms of few and little follow the same rules as the positive forms. Thus, the adjectives fewer and fewest are used to modify plural countable nouns, and the adjectives less and least are used to modify uncountable nouns.
e.g. This recipe requires fewer eggs than that recipe.
      This street has less traffic than that street.

      This recipe requires the fewest eggs.
      This street has the least traffic.

In these examples eggs is a plural countable noun modified by fewer and fewest, and traffic is an uncountable noun modified by less and least.

The use of these adjectives with countable and uncountable nouns is summarized below. The adjectives in the left-hand column are used to compare quantities of things which can be counted, while those in the right-hand column are used to compare amounts of things which are considered as substances.

Used withUsed with
Countable NounsUncountable Nouns
  many  much
  more  more
  most  most
   
  few  little
  fewer  less
  fewest  least


See Exercise 8.

b. Synonyms for Many and Much
In questions and negative statements, the adjectives many and much are commonly used in both formal and informal English.
e.g. Question: How many museums have you visited?
      Negative Statement: He does not have much confidence.

In affirmative statements, the adjectives many and much are commonly used in combination with words such as as, so and too.
e.g. I have read twice as many books as you have.
      He has so much money he can buy whatever he likes.
      There are too many possibilities to consider.

However, in affirmative statements not containing words such as as, so and too, the adjective much is rarely used in either formal or informal English, and the adjective many is rarely used in informal English. Instead, synonyms are used.

The phrases a great deal of, a lot of, and lots of are used as synonyms for much. The phrase a great deal of may be used in formal English, and the phrases a lot of and lots of may be used in informal English. The phrase lots of is more informal than the phrase a lot of.
e.g. Formal: He has a great deal of confidence.
      Informal: He has a lot of confidence.
      More Informal: He has lots of confidence.

In informal English, the phrases a lot of and lots of are used as synonyms for many. The phrase lots of is more informal than the phrase a lot of.
e.g. Formal: There are many possibilities.
      Informal: There are a lot of possibilities.
      More Informal: There are lots of possibilities.

c. Positive forms used in comparisons
In order to indicate that the things being compared are equal in some respect, the positive forms many, much, few and little can be used as follows:

    as   +  positive   +  noun     +  as 
      form     
           
  e.g. She has  as  many  brothers  as  sisters.
        He has  as  much  courage  as  you do.
        They take  as  few  risks  as  possible.
        He knows  as  little  English  as  they do.

It is possible to modify such expressions by placing an adverb before the first occurrence of as, as illustrated below.

    adverb   +  as   +  positive   +  noun   +  as 
        form     
             
  e.g. She has  twice  as  many  brothers  as  sisters.
        He has  nearly  as  much  courage  as  you do.
        He knows  almost  as  little  English  as  they do.


See Exercise 9.

The positive forms many, much, few and little can also be combined with expressions referring to a quantity of something. This type of construction is summarized below, followed by examples.

    as   +  positive   +  as   +  expression indicating
      form    a quantity of something
         
      The course includes  as  many  as  ten tests.
      Yesterday he drank  as  much  as  three liters of milk.
      The game requires  as  few  as  two players.
      The magazines cost  as  little  as  fifteen cents.

It should be noted that when a noun names a unit of currency or a unit of measurement, the amount referred to is usually considered as a whole. When this is the case, the noun acts as an uncountable noun, in that it may be modified by the adjectives much, little and less.

For instance, in the examples:
      Yesterday he drank as much as three liters of milk.
      The magazines cost as little as fifteen cents.
the noun liters names a unit of measurement, and the noun cents names a unit of currency. Since the amounts referred to are each considered as a whole, the adjectives much and little are used.

Likewise, in the following examples, the noun dollars names a unit of currency, and the nouns ounces and degrees name units of measurement.
e.g. We saved as much as fifteen dollars.
      The kittens weighed as little as three ounces each.
      The temperature this morning was less than five degrees.
In these examples, the nouns printed in bold type refer to amounts considered as a whole, and the adjectives much, little and less are used.

d. Comparative forms used in comparisons
The comparative forms more, fewer and less are often employed in comparisons using the following construction:

    comparative   +  noun    +  than 
    form     
         
  e.g. I bought  more  apples  than  I needed.
        We eat  more  rice  than  they do.
        The class has  fewer  boys  than  girls.
        They ate  less  cake  than  we did.

This type of construction can also be combined with phrases or clauses. When two phrases or clauses are used to distinguish the things being compared, the word than may be placed before the second phrase or clause.
e.g. There is more wood in the park than on the island.
      We have more fun when we go out than when we stay at home.

In the first example two locations are distinguished by the phrases in the park and on the island, and the second phrase, on the island, is preceded by the word than. In the second example two situations are distinguished by the clauses when we go out and when we stay at home, and the second clause, when we stay at home, is preceded by the word than.

See Exercise 10.

The comparative forms more, fewer and less can also be used in comparisons referring to a quantity of something. The type of construction used is summarized below, followed by examples.

    comparative   +  than   +  expression indicating
    form    a quantity of something
       
      The bicycle costs  more  than  twenty dollars.
      The class has  fewer  than  ten students.
      The book costs  less  than  five dollars.

In addition, the comparative forms more, fewer and less can be combined with nouns to form comparisons similar to progressive comparisons. The type of construction used is summarized below, followed by examples.

    comparative   +  and   +  comparative   +  noun
    form    form 
         
      The baby is drinking  more  and  more  milk.
      The student made  fewer  and  fewer  mistakes.
      The boy is spending  less  and  less  money.

The first example indicates that the baby is drinking an increasing quantity of milk. The second example indicates that the student made a decreasing number of mistakes. The third example indicates that the boy is spending a decreasing amount of money.

See Exercise 11.

e. Superlative forms used in comparisons
The superlative forms most, fewest and least can be used in the following construction:

    the   +  superlative   +  noun 
      form 
       
  e.g. She scored  the  most  points.
        He made  the  fewest  mistakes.
        This room has  the  least  furniture.

 

3. The adjectives Similar, Different and Same used in comparisons


The idioms similar to, different from and the same as can each be used in the following construction:

  noun, pronoun or  to be  different from,  noun, pronoun or
  other expression         +  or other   +  similar to, or   +  other expression
  representing 1st  linking  the same as  representing 2nd
  thing being compared    verb    thing being compared
       
  e.g. Her bicycle  looks  similar to  mine.
        The result  was  different from  what I had expected.
        His timetable  is  the same as  yours.

See Exercise 12.

The adjective similar followed by the preposition to can be used in comparing things which have characteristics in common.
e.g. The landscape of Maine is similar to that of Scandinavia.
      His background is similar to yours.

The adjective different followed by the preposition from can be used in comparing things which have differing characteristics.
e.g. His ideas are different from mine.
      Fish that live in the ocean are different from fish that live in rivers and lakes.

The verb differ followed by the preposition from can also be used in comparing things which have differing characteristics.
e.g. His ideas differ from mine.
      Fish that live in the ocean differ from fish that live in rivers and lakes.

The phrase the same followed by as can be used in comparing things which are identical in some respect.
e.g. Your shoes look the same as mine.
      The temperature of the water is the same as the temperature of the air.

It should be noted that the phrase the same can also be followed by a noun or other expression, as indicated below:

  noun, pronoun or      expression    noun, pronoun or
  other expression      stating    other expression
  representing 1st   +  verb   +  the same   +  what aspect   +  as   +  representing 2nd
  thing being      is being    thing being
  compared      compared    compared
           
  e.g. My coat  is  the same  color  as  hers.
        She  has  the same  postal code  as  you do.

If desired, adverbs may be used before the expressions similar to, different from and the same, in order to modify these types of comparisons. The adverbs in the following examples are underlined.
e.g. Her bicycle looks quite similar to mine.
      The result was somewhat different from what I had expected.
      His timetable is almost the same as yours.
      My coat is nearly the same color as hers.

It is also possible for the expressions similar, different and the same to be used at the end of a sentence. This type of construction is summarized below, followed by examples.

      different,
  expression representing           +  linking verb   +  similar or
  the objects being compared    the same
     
  The flavors of strawberries and kiwi fruit  are  similar.
  My conclusion and your conclusion  are  different.
  The two sweaters  look  the same.


See Exercise 13.

 

4. Making logical comparisons


If complex sentences containing phrases or clauses are used to make comparisons, care must be taken, particularly in formal English, to ensure that the comparisons are logical and that the appropriate objects are in fact being compared.

For example, the following sentence is logically incorrect, because it compares life in the country to the city.
e.g. Life in the country is different from the city.

In order to be logically correct, the sentence must be changed so that similar types of things are being compared.
e.g. Life in the country is different from life in the city.
This sentence is logically correct, since it compares life in the country to life in the city.

Similarly, the following sentence is logically incorrect, because it compares the vowel sounds of English to Spanish.
e.g. The vowel sounds of English are more numerous than Spanish.

In order to be logically correct, the sentence must be changed so that similar types of things are being compared. Thus, the sentence may be corrected as follows:
e.g. The vowel sounds of English are more numerous than the vowel sounds of Spanish.

See Exercise 14.

In such sentences, the noun or phrase which is repeated in the second part of the comparison may be replaced by that or those. That is used if the noun being replaced is singular, and those is used if the noun being replaced is plural.
e.g. Life in the country is different from that in the city.
      The vowel sounds of English are more numerous than those of Spanish.

In the first example, that is used to replace the singular noun life. In the second example, those is used to replace the phrase the vowel sounds. The form those must be used, since the noun sounds is plural.

See Exercise 15.

 

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