Comparison of Adverbs

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Comparative Forms of Adverbs

Just as with adjectives, adverbs come in three forms: positive (the basic form), comparative (showing a greater or lesser degree) and superlative (showing the greatest or least degree).

There are two ways to form the comparative:

  • Use –er when the adverb is just one syllable long: nearer, later, sooner, slower, straighter.
  • If the adverb is longer than one syllable, add more: more closely, more fully, more incessantly, more jealously.

Similarly, there are two standard ways to form the superlative:

  • Use –est when the adverb is just one syllable long: nearest, quickest, slowest, straightest.
  • If the adverb is longer than one syllable, add most: most impressively, most gleefully.

The only exception to these rules is early, which follows the rules for one syllable adverbs (earlierearliest).

Irregular adverbs

Some irregular adverbs don’t follow the normal rules for comparative and superlative forms:

Positive Comparative Superlative
well better best
badly worse worst
much more most
little less least
far farther/further farther/furthest

Many of these forms are the same as for irregular adjectives.

Adverbs with Two Endings

If you’ve read the previous section, you may have noticed that some adverbs that end in –ly also have a shorter form. Here are some examples:

close, closely
loud, loudly
quick, quickly
slow, slowly

Sometimes the two forms are used in different ways:

He came close and gave me a hug.

I watched her closely.

At other times, the shorter form is simply a more casual way of phrasing something:

Janet laughs so loud that her mom gets embarrassed.

Let’s go slow this time.

In a more formal context you should think about using the –ly ending, but it depends somewhat on preference. You might find that you would readily substitute slowly, but still prefer loud over loudly.