Comparison Forms of Adjectives

When we want to compare things, sometimes we need to put adjectives into the comparative or superlative form.

There are three levels:

  • Normal Adjective   ⇒  „Das Haus ist groß.“ (+)
  • Comparative Form ⇒ „Das Haus ist größer.“  (++)
  • Superlative Form  ⇒ „Das Haus ist am größten.“ (+++)

The Comparative Form

Use of the Comparative:

The comparative form is used when one thing is bigger, smaller, better, worse, more interesting, less interesting, etc. than another.

In English, it's done with the ending "-er" or the words "more" or "less."

Constructing the Comparative:

Adjective + „-er“: The comparative form is made by taking the adjective and adding the ending "-er."

After the comparative form come the word "als" and the second noun (what we're comparing the subject to).

Examples:

  • „Kevin rennt schneller als Max.“
  • „Lisa ist kleiner als Maria.“

Exceptions:

If the adjective ends in „-el“, the „e“ is taken out in the comparative form (but not in the superlative form).

  • edel – edler – am edelsten
  • sensibel – sensibler – am sensibelsten
  • dunkel – dunkler – am dunkelsten
  • flexibel – flexibler – am flexibelsten

If the adjective ends in a vowel (a,e,i,o,u) + „-er,“  the  „e“ in the comparative form is taken out.

  • teuer – teurer – am teuersten
  • sauer – saurer – am sauersten
  • sauber – sauberer – am saubersten

Adjectives rarely end in „-er.“

In one-syllable adjectives, an umlaut (ä,ö,ü) is added​.

  • groß – größer – am größten
  • klug – klüger – am klügsten
  • alt – älter – am ältesten

The Superlative Form

Use of the Superlative:

The superlative describes things that are the most extreme - the biggest, the smallest, the best, the worst, the most interesting,...

Constructing the Superlative:

There are two ways to construct the superlative

  • definite article + adjective + „-ste“
  • „am“ + adjective + „-sten“

Examples

  • „Kevin ist der schnellste Läufer.“
  • „Kevin rennt am schnellsten.“

Things to Watch Out For

For adjectives ending in „d,“ „t,“ „s,“ „ß,“ „x,“ or „z,“ form the superlative with „-esten“

  • leicht – leichter – am leichtesten
  • heiß – heißer – am heißesten
  • schlecht – schlechter – am schlechtesten

Exception: groß – größer – am größten

One-syllable adjectives usually have an umlaut in the superlative form

  • groß – größer – am größten
  • klug – klüger – am klügsten
  • alt – älter – am ältesten

Irregular Adjectives - Comparative and Superlative

A few adjectives have irregular comparative and/or superlative constructions:

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Adjectives Endings

If the comparative or superlative form comes before a noun, then the adjective must be declined just like a normal adjective.

  • „Er hat ein schnelleres Auto als ich.“ (Accusative - Neuter)
  • „Jan ist ein besserer Lehrer als Max.“ (Nominative - Masculine)
  • „Jermaine ist der schnellste Mann der Welt.“ (Nominative - Masculine)

In the comparative form we simply add the ending. In the superlative form we adjust the ending "-en" according to the normal rules of adjective declension.

Other Ways to Compare Things

The so called "positive form" of the adjective is the base form and can also be used to compare.

The comparison is created by combining the positive form with the phrases:

so / genauso … wie  (⇒ the same / equal)

  • „Jan ist so schwer wie Marcel.“
  • „Jan ist genauso schwer wie Marcel.“

Meaning: Jan weighs the same as Marcel.


halb so… wie  (⇒ half)

  • „Der Kuchen ist halb so groß wie der andere.“


doppelt so … wie  (⇒ double / twice)

  • „Der Kuchen ist doppelt so groß wie der andere.“


fast so… wie  (⇒ close / almost)

  • „Der Kuchen ist fast so groß wie der andere.“


nicht so … wie  (⇒ not the same)

  • „Der Kuchen ist nicht so groß wie der andere.“


In these cases, the word "wie" is used similarly to the English phrase "as... as": "The cake is half as big as the other," "The cake is almost as big as the other," and so on.

Related Topics:

A detailed explanation of the rules for adjective declension.

An overview of what you have to pay attention to when dealing with adjectives in general.

Adjective declension depends on whether there is a definite articleindefinite article (including possessive determiners or the negative article), or no article at all (the zero article) in front of the adjective.

The ending is determined by the case: nominativeaccusativedative, or genitive.

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