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Comparatives and Superlatives for Primary School Teachers

Big, bigger & Biggest
Comparatives and superlatives are a great place to introduce more advanced grammatical terms (after nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs & adjectives). It is a discrete area of grammar and one that once the logic has been understood, has no exceptions.

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Table of Contents

What is a comparative?

A comparative allows someone to compare two things and usually ends in “er“. 

  • The bigger apple.
  • The happier child.
  • The faster runner. 
  • The better throw.
  •  The brighter light.
  • The louder sound.
  • The hungrier Gruffalo.
  • The scarier costume. 
  • The juicier fruit.
  •  The taller giraffe.

What is a superlative?

A superlative allows someone to compare three or more things and usually ends in “est“. 

  • The biggest apple.
  • The happiest child.
  • The fastest runner. 
  • The best throw.
  •  The brightest light.
  • The loudest sound.
  • The hungriest Gruffalo.
  • The scariest costume. 
  • The juiciest fruit.
  •  The tallest giraffe.

How do superlatives and comparatives interact?

Adjectives, comparatives & superlatives all describe nouns or things. 

1. An adjective describes a noun one its own. For example: loud, hungry, scary, juicy, tall. 

2. A comparative describes a noun relative to another noun. For example, “the louder noise” means there must be two noises and you are describing the louder one. “The hungrier Gruffalo” means there are two Gruffalos.

3. A superlative describes a noun relative to at least two other nouns. For example, “the loudest noise” means there must be three noises and you are describing the loudest one. “The hungriest Gruffalo” means there are three Gruffalos.

 

comparative and superlative

Adjective

  • big
  • happy
  • fast
  • good
  • bright

Comparative

  • bigger
  • happier
  • faster
  • better
  • brighter

Superlative

  • biggest
  • happiest
  • fastest
  • best
  • brightest

This works similarly with adverbs, comparatives and superlatives:

Adverb: The boy walks fast [on his own]. 

Comparatives: The boy walks faster [than he does normally]. 

Superlatives: The boy walks the fastest [in his class]. 

Where do comparatives and superlatives appear in the National Curriculum?

Comparatives and superlatives don’t appear in the national curriculum explicitly.

Spelling Lists:

In the Year 1 spelling list, “Adding –er and –est to adjectives where no change is needed to the root word – if the adjective ends in two consonant letters (the same or different), the ending is simply added on. [For example,] grander, grandest,

fresher, freshest, quicker, quickest”.

So this is concentrating on teaching the spelling pattern of adding “er” and “est” to the end of adjectives that end in a consonant

-er and est in year 1

Similarly, the Year 2 spelling list also highlights how to add the “er” and “est” in the cases where the adjective:

1. ends in an “y”

2. ends in an “e”

3. words of one syllable ending in a single consonant letter after a single vowel letter

Grammar Curriulum

The Grammar curriculum touches on comparatives and superlatives in Year 2. Again is seems to be more in relation to the word formation aspect than use. 

As can be seen from the curriculum suffixes are a big part focus.  

comparatives and superlatives suffix

The Modifier "More"

To form some comparatives, it is appropriate to add the word “more” . “The new vaccine was more effective than the old vaccine”. (This is generally true for adjectives with more than 2 syllables.)

It is not uncommon to hear children say things along the lines of: “he is more happier than me”. The issue here is that they have doubled up using both “more” and “happier“. One of these will suffice: “he is more happy than me” or “he is happier than me”.  

This is really noticeable to native English speakers. 

Comparative and Superlative Table & Worksheet

Ask students to complete the table below: 

Adjective

  • big
  • happy
  • fast
  • good
  • bright
  • loud
  • hungry
  • scary
  • juicy
  • tall
  • bad
  • great
  • long
  • wet
  • dry
  • healthy
  • green
  • joyful
  • beautiful
  • small
  • strong
  • hot
  • old
  • sweet
  • cheap
  • large
  • clever
  • intelligent
  • smart
  • comfortable

Comparative

  • bigger
  • happier
  • faster

Superlative

  • biggest
  • happiest
  • fastest

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