Comparatives and superlatives

We use comparatives to compare two things, places or people.

She is taller than her husband.

Superlatives are used, however, to show the difference between more than two things, places or people.

Paris is the biggest city in France.

Now watch the following video and make/take notes.

So, to form comparatives and superlatives, you need to know the number of syllables in the adjective. Syllables are like “sound beats.”

For instance:

  • “find” contains one syllable,
  • but “finding” contains two — find and ing.

Rules to form comparatives and superlatives

1. One syllable adjective ending in a silent ‘e’ — nice

  • Comparative — add ‘r’ — nicer
  • Superlative — add ‘st’ — nicest

2. One syllable adjective ending in a consonant, a vowel and another consonant — big

  • Comparative — the consonant is doubled and ‘er’ is added —bigger
  • Superlative — the consonant is doubled and ‘est’ is added—biggest

3. One syllable adjective ending in more than one consonant or more than a vowel (or long vowels) — highcheap, soft.

  • Comparative — ‘er’ is added — highercheaper, softer.
  • Superlative — ‘est is added — highestcheapest , softest.

4. A two syllable adjective ending in ‘y’ — happy

  • Comparative — ‘y’ becomes ‘i’ and ‘er’ is added — happier
  • Superlative — ‘y’ becomes ‘i’ and ‘est’ is added — happiest

5. Two syllable or more adjectives without ‘y’ at the end  exciting

  • Comparative  more + the adjective + than  more exciting than
  • Superlative  more + the adjective + than  the most exciting

Examples:

  • The Nile River is longer and more famous than the Thames.
  • Egypt is hotter than Sweden.
  • Everest is the highest mountain in the world.
  • This is one of the most exciting films I have ever seen.

Irregular comparatives and superlatives

AdjectivesComparativesSuperlatives
badworseworst
far(distance)fartherfarthest
far(extent)furtherfurthest
goodbetterbest
little  lessleast
manymoremost
muchmoremost

Similarities

To express similarities use the following structure:

… as + adjective + as …

Examples:

  • Mike is as intelligent as Nancy.
  • Larry is as popular as Oprah.

Comparative and superlative exercises

Complete the sentences with the most appropriate comparative or superlative phrase of the adjective given.

1. Mary is  ____________________ (lazy) student in the class.

2. Rob’s apartment is  _________________ (nice) mine.

3. Elephants are  ____________________ (fat) camels.

4. Kim is   _______________________ (small) of all my friends.

5. I think tornadoes are _______________________ (bad) hurricanes because they occur more often and are much more unpredictable.

6. Laura speaks English  ______________________ (good) Susan.

More exercises on comparatives and superlatives.

And now the funniest practice ever! With songs! Listen and complete. 😉

“Of” e receitas: an oatmeal recipe

Oatmeal (mingau de aveia) can be the most comforting and fulfilling breakfast, lunch, or dinner. A student was having (eating) a bowl of oatmeal during the class (online classes allow for that), and I asked her to share her oatmeal recipe with me. Then, she started listing the ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons of the oats (aveia)

She thought that she had to use “of the”, because of phrases like the end of the day, the cost of the meal, a member of the team, etc.

So I decided to prepare this lesson.

In this context, when we are listing the ingredients of the recipeOF is being used to show what type of substance or thing we are referring to when talking about the amount:

  • two kilos of sugar
  • millions of dollars
  • a bar of chocolate

There are many different oatmeal recipes, and the purpose of this lesson is not the recipe itself but to learn how to say it. Here is an easy one only to show you how the ingredients are listed. Notice the 1/2 cup of rolled oats

Okay, now let’s look at some situations in which we use of the:

the end of the day

used to show what a part belongs to or comes from
the back of the house
the last scene of the movie

the cost of the meal

used when talking about a feature or quality that something has
the beauty of the scenery
the length of the swimming-pool

a member of the baseball team

used to show what group one or more things or people belong to
some of the students
‘Mona Lisa’ is one of the best-known paintings.
Two of the guests are vegetarian.

Now, here is a very common situation in which we use only of: a cup of coffee

used to say what something contains
several packets of cigarettes
truckloads of refugees

Okay! Let’s see what other ingredients my student adds to her oatmeal recipe, starting from the beginning:

  • 2 tablespoons of oats
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 tablespoon of whey protein
  • 1 banana
  • a dash (pitada) of cinnamon

Way to go Mariane! Bon apettit!

Like or as?

Like and as are words commonly used in English for comparisons. Even though there are subtle differences between them, English speakers use them interchangeably. They are even sometimes misused.

The confusion in using like and as is first caused by translating them to Portuguese, because both of them mean “como”, one word only.  

In formal writing, like is used as a preposition, telling location, direction, time or relationship between a noun or a pronoun and another word in a sentenceAs is used as a conjunction, joining two clauses (groups of words that must include a subject and a verb), with the bonus that you have a comparison too.

But let me remind you that there are two ways of comparing:

‘more _____ than’ or ‘_____ than’ and ‘as _____ as,’ compare qualities, speed, height, weight, cost, shape

‘like’ and ‘as’ compare things to things, actions to actions

When to use Like

Like compares two things, usually appearance or behavior, meaning similar to.’ That is probably the most common use of like. Like, must always be followed by a noun or a pronoun.

  • He looks like Oscar Wilde.

Here, we are comparing he and Oscar Wilde, so like should be used.

  • The little girl, like her mother, has bright red hair.

The same goes for this sentence, where we are comparing a mother and daughter.

  • She’s a teacher, like me.

Like can also be used to say ‘for example,’ especially when there is a list of things.

  • I love sports like tennis and golf.
  • I have hobbies like dancing and cycling.

When to use As

As is commonly used to talk about jobs.

  • I work as a teacher.

Frequently, as can be replaced by the way‘, ‘in the same way,’ ‘in the same condition.’

  • No one makes chocolate cake as my mother does.

Notice how you could replace as with ‘the way’ or ‘in the same way’ and maintain the same meaning.

  • No one makes chocolate cake the way my mother does.

As is used to compare verbs (actions). So the conjunction as should be used because there is a subject and a verb (does) after it.

Let’s look at another example.

  • He can’t play cricket as he used to.

At first glance, there appears to be no verb after as. However, when speaking, we often leave out verbs that are already implied. The implied verb is play, as in he used to play cricket

Traditionally, like needs to be followed by a noun. However, in informal English, like can replace as. Some people think this is not correct, but it is common in American English.

  • Nobody understands him as I do.
  • Nobody understands him like I do.

It is also possible to use as + noun (preposition) meaningin the role/position/function of a person/thing.’

  • I’ll dress up as a ghost for Halloween.
  • We can use the sofa as a bed.

Now compare the following sentences. Here, the change from as to like changes the meaning.

As your father,
I’ll help you as
much as I can.
The speaker is the listener’s father. (it is not a comparison)
Like your father,
I’ll help you
as much as
I can.
The speaker is not the father but wishes to act in a similar way to the father.

Here is a video that reminds us of the use of as for comparing something that is equal (as + adjective + as), and teaches some expressions, like:

  • As you know, I’m from Brazil.
  • I booked that restaurant, as you suggested.
  • As we agreed, I’ll pay you tomorrow.
  • You’re late, as usual/always.
  • She’s the same age as me.

Next, there is a chart which summarizes this information.

Here is another good lesson and you can now do exercises about as and like.

“Get” or “take” the vaccine?

A student said: “My parents took the vaccine.”

Hmmm, I wasn’t quite right about this particular combination of words. I’ve seen a lot in these at least 30 years dealing with the English language, and that’s not enough when we think of the number of possibilities we have to communicate something. There are certainly the more usual ways in which some words are often used together, but sometimes other combinations are possible. That’s when doing a bit of research comes in handy.

So should we say: take or get the vaccine?

First, check it out the lesson Get or take? to situate yourself regarding the usage of these two verbs because how to use them, is a question shared by many English learners.

Could you grasp the difference in usage between get and take? If your answer is yes, we can now go back to our question above: take or get the vaccine?

CDC – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the national public health agency of the United States, mostly combines the word vaccine with the verbs get and receive.

To understand the getting COVID-19 above, check the Verbo “to get” lesson.

The Oxford Collocations Dictionary gives the verbs have and receive.

But yeah, to combine the word vaccine with the verb to take seems to be possible as this article from the World Economic Forum shows! And it makes sense if we think that we take medication.

Next one more example.

So, although on the one hand the word vaccine is more commonly combined with the verb to get, on the other hand, we can assume that yes, it’s possible to say:

“My parents took the vaccine.”

So I want to thank my dear students for the insights you bring to class, things that might have never crossed my mind.
This teaches me to be more careful and slow to jump to conclusions.
I know it’s a lesson I’ll forget sometimes, but I’ll keep trying.

Thank you Gi! 😉

Get or take?

This is a question shared by many English learners.

The main difference between these two words concerns ‘who’ is performing the action.

Get is passive, and take is an active verb.

But I suggest you check the Verbo “to get” lesson first.

The following video shows a few main points to start with. Make sure to take notes! 😉

GET means to gain possession of something. Is a more casual (common) way of saying “obtain” or “receive”.

Get can be used when another person (or thing) gives you something. This is more passive.

got a call from Gary this morning.
(I received a call from Gary this morning. This is passive, I just received the call.)

Ellen got the new bike on her birthday.

TAKE means to move or carry something from one place to another.

Ellen takes her new bike everywhere she needs to go.

Take doesn’t always need another person (or thing). Something can be taken by a single person in the sentence.

took the call in my office.
(I accepted/received the call in my office. This is more active, I decided where to accept the call. I am also the only person in this sentence.)

Let’s look at another example:

There is a new Italian restaurant near my office. I got a flyer this morning. The restaurant looks good.

– This sentence is passive, we don’t know how I received the flyer, maybe someone gave it to me, or maybe it came in the mail. We only know that I have it, I received it.

Compare:

There is a new Italian restaurant near my office. I took a flyer this morning from the front door. The restaurant looks good.

– This sentence has an active feeling, we know how I received the flyer and we know what I did to receive it. I took it from the front door. The flyers were offered and I accepted one.

Take can sometimes have a negative feeling

You can take something that is offered to you, like a flyer, some food, etc. This is to accept something. But…
If you remove something that is not offered to you we still use the verb take, but the meaning is negative. This can mean stealing:

Someone took my bicycle from the park. (Someone stole my bike.)

Or it can be a mistake:

I left the house in a rush this morning and I took my wife’s keys by accident. (I grabbed my wife’s keys by mistake.)

Compare:

got $20 from my Dad for helping him clean the garage. My Dad gave me the money.
took $20 from my Dad’s wallet. I stole $20 from my Dad. I removed $20 without permission.

Take can also suggest to gain possession of something by force, illegally or unfairly. Then it is similar to verbs like “seize” and “capture”.

The military took control of the country after the soldiers rebelled.

Take is also often used more idiomatically (cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words but that has a separate meaning of its own) as well, in providing directions to a place. For example:

Jack’s store is on Robbins Road. Take 4th Street for a mile and you will see it.

In that case, take means “use” or “follow”.

Confusingly, take can also be used similar to the verb “give”, like in this sentence:

Michael takes care of Jennifer’s dog.

In that case, the speaker means Michael is the person responsible for meeting the dog’s needs. He is the caregiver to the dog.

Finally, take is often used in connection with expressions of time. For example:

Ellie takes 30 minutes to get ready for work.

That sentence has the exact same meaning as Ellie spends 30 minutes to get ready for work.

Get also is common to idiomatic expressions. It often substitutes for “understand” and “know” (check out the Verbo “to get” lesson). Look at this sentence:

I get that we have to learn math but I do not like it.

Sometimes that usage clearly suggests a speaker’s impatience or frustration:

“I get it, Mom! I have to clean my room today.”

Finally, get is a common substitute for “feel”, “become”, or “start”, among others (check the Adjectives for feelings lesson). Here are some examples:

I’m going to leave for lunch when I get hungry.

She gets sad on rainy days.

He left the show when the music got loud.

There are many more idiomatic uses of get and take. Look for them whenever you get to practice your English! Hehe…

Below is a chart to help you with all this information.

What you have to understand is that both get and take are very common verbs in the English language and they are used with hundreds of different expressions.

The best thing that you can do is recognize when an expression uses get or take, understand how that expression is being used, practice the expression, get comfortable with it and add it to your speech.

It’s more effective to simply learn get or take in a natural context when you see them, when you’re listening to TV, when you’re watching a movie, when you’re reading a book and add it to your vocabulary after a lot of practice and repetition.

For some practice, work on a quiz about get and take.