Dumb and Dumber: 5 Common Errors with Comparatives and Superlatives


Adjectives and adverbs come in three degrees of comparison: positive, comparative, and superlative. When comparing or contrasting two or more things, we use the comparative or superlative degrees. The following chart gives some examples of adjectives and adverbs in their various degrees.












more beautiful

most beautiful









more sweetly

most sweetly


more gladly

most gladly


more carefully

most carefully




When using these modifiers in comparisons, avoid the following common errors.

Confusing Comparative and Superlative

Rule: When comparing or contrasting two persons, places, or things, use the comparative degree. When comparing three or more, use the superlative degree

Comparing two: On most women, evening gowns look more attractive than overalls.

More than two: Of all the electricians I know, you are the most attractive.

Comparing two: Marvin is wiser than Tom, but Tom is kinder.

More than two: Solomon was the wisest man of all.

 A common error occurs when the degrees are confused:

Confused: Between Larry and Moe, Moe is the meanest.

Better: Between Curly and Moe, Moe is the meaner.

Doubling Up

In forming comparative and superlative modifiers, you either add an er/est ending or add the helpers more/most. It is never necessary to use both:

Incorrect: That was my most happiest moment.

Correct: That was my happiest moment.

Incorrect: This restaurant is more better than the other.

Correct: This restaurant is better than the other.

Unbalanced Comparisons

Be sure that the items you compare are of a similar kind.

Unbalanced: Mrs. William’s tests are easier than Mr. Olsen.

         Balanced: Mrs. Williams tests are easier than Mr. Olsen’s [tests].

Unbalanced: This coffee is better than the shop on main street.

Balanced:        This coffee is better than the coffee in the shop on Main Street.

Not Using Other and Else

When comparing one of a group with the rest of the group, remember to use other or else.

Illogical: Greg was more trustworthy than any student in class.

Logical: Greg was more trustworthy than any other student in class.

Illogical: Bill is faster than anyone on the team.

Logical: Bill is faster than anyone else on the team.

Confusing Less and Fewer

When making negative comparisons, use the adjectives less and fewer. Increasingly these words are used interchangeably, but the traditional standard usage made a distinction that you should at least be aware of.

Traditional: Use less when comparing amounts and fewer when comparing numbers of things that can be counted.

Aunt Martha has less patience than Uncle Henry. (Patience can’t be counted.)

Aunt Martha knows fewer jokes than Uncle Henry. (Jokes can be counted.)


Like this article? Please consider sharing it or subscribing to our weekly email update! Post any comments and questions below. Bloggers love comments.

About the Author

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. Vinny

    Thank you so much. It helps a lot 🙂

  2. t0ntin

    I do not see the most common mistake which is to say things like more clear instead of clearer.

  3. Josie

    Thank you!
    It was very helpful!

  4. Kevin Obida
    Kevin Obida12-07-2014

    so what’s the definition of a confusing comparison?

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko12-08-2014

      I don’t know. I address the error of confusing comparative superlative pronouns.

  5. Chantal

    Thank you so much. I love having these resources available.

  6. Brian Wasko
    Brian Wasko12-05-2013

    Good question Chatal. Yes, “even” is common before a comparative. It adds a kind of emphasis. It implies that the “comparee” is an outstanding example of the quality in question, but the “compared” is greater still.

    “I am even happier than Sue” implies that Sue is exceptionally happy.

  7. Chantal

    Is the use of even before a comparative acceptable?

    I am even happier than Sue.

    Is it doubling up? Implied or adds emphasis?


Leave a Reply

If you like a post, please take a second to click "like," and comment as often as you like.
We promise not to correct your grammar!