Tema 20- Expresión de la cualidad, el grado y la comparación

Tema 20- Expresión de la cualidad, el grado y la comparación

With gradable adjectives and adverbs there are 3 types of comparison:

  1. To a higher degree
  2. To the same degree
  3. To a lower degree

The three types of comparison are expressed by these means:

  1. Comparison to a higher degree is expressed by the inflected forms in –er and –est or their periphrastic equivalents with more and most

– Ann is cleverer /more clever than Susan

– Ann is the cleverest /most clever student in class

  1. Comparison to the same degree is expressed by as (or sometimes so for the negative) …..as

– Ann is as tall as Bill

– Ann is not as /so tall as John

  1. Comparison to a lower degree is expressed by less and least

– This problem is less difficult than the previous one

– This is the least difficult problem of all

For higher degree comparisons, English has a three-term inflectional contrast between absolute, comparative and superlative forms for many adjectives and for a few adverbs

















More complex

Most complex



More comfortably

Most comfortably

Comparatives of adjectives and adverbs, whether inflectional or periphrastic, can be modified by intensifiers

– Nearly as beautiful as

– Much easier

– Somewhat shorter

– A great deal more easily

Similarly, superlatives can be modified by intensifiers

– The youngest candidate ever

– By far the best solution

The comparative is generally used to express a comparison between 2 persons, 2 items and 2 sets

– Jane is cleverer than her sister

– Jane is cleverer than all the other students in the class

The superlative is generally used when more than 2 are involved

– Jane is the cleverest of the three sisters

– Jane is the cleverest of all the students in the class

With the superlative Jane is included in the group and compared with the others

Comparison of adjectives:

A small group of highly frequent adjectives have comparative and superlative forms with stems which are different from the base








Further/ farther

Furthest/ farthest

Old is regularly inflected as older-oldest. In attributive position, particularly when referring to the order of birth of members of a family, the irregular forms elder/eldest are normally substituted

– My elder/older sister is an artist

– His eldest/oldest son is still at school

However, elder is not a true comparative in that it cannot be followed by than

– My sister is 3 years older/* elder than me

Regular forms of comparison:

With adjective staking the regular inflections, certain changes in spelling or pronunciation may be introduced in the base of the adjective when the suffixes are added

  1. A single consonant at the end of the base is doubled before –er and –est when the preceding vowel is stressed and spelled with a single letter

– Big-bigger-biggest

But contrast:

– Neat-neater-neatest

– Thick-thicker-thickest

  1. In bases ending in a consonant follwed by –y, y changes to –I before –er and –est

– angry- angrier-angriest

  1. If the base ends in a mute –e, the –e is dropped before the inflection:

– pure- purer- purest

The same applies if the base ends in- ee

– free – freer- freest

  1. Syllabic l, as in simple, ceases to be syllabic when inflections are added: simpler
  1. Even for speakers who do not pronounce the final –r, the r is pronounced before the inflection as in poorer

Choice between inflectional and periphrastic comparison:

  1. Monosyllabic adjectives normally form their comparison by inflection

– Low-lower-lowest

  1. Many disyllabic adjectives can also take inflections, though they have the alternative of the periphrastic forms

– Her children are politer/more polite

– Her children are the politest/the most polite

Disyllabic adjectives that can most readily take inflected forms are those ending in an unstressed vowel, syllabic l or r.

– -Y: early, easy, funny, happy, noisy

– -Ow: narrow, shallow

– -Le: able, noble, simple

  1. Trisyllabic or longer adjectives can only take periphrastic forms

– Beautiful- more beautiful- the most beautiful

Adjectives with the negative –un prefix such as unhappy and untidy are exceptions

– unhappy- unhappier- unhappiest

– untidy- untidier- untidiest

Participle forms which are used as adjectives take only periphrastic forms

– interesting- more interesting – the most interesting

– wounded- more wounded – the most wounded

– worn- more worn – the most worn

Comparison of adverbs:

As with adjectives, there is a small group with comparatives and superlatives formed from different stems.








Further/ farther

Furthest/ farthest







Adverbs that are identical in form with adjectives take inflections if the adjectives do so: fast, hard, late, long, quick. They follow the same spelling and phonological rules as for adjectives: early-earlier-earliest

Comparative clauses:

In a comparative construction, a proposition expressed in the matrix clause is compared with a proposition expressed in the subordinate clause. Words that are repeated in both clauses may be omitted in the subordinate clause.

– Jane is as healthy as her sister (is). (1)

– Jane is healthier than her sister (is). (2)

Comparison includes comparisons of equivalence as in 1, non- equivalence as in 2 and comparisons of sufficiency and excess as in 3 and 4.

– Don is sensitive enough to understand your feelings. (3)

– Marilyn was too polite to say anything about my clothes (4)

Normally comparisons require a than-clause:

– Jane is more healthy than her sister is.

– Jane is healthier than her sister is.

– Jane is less healthy than her sister is.

Comparisons of equivalence, non- equivalence and excess are non-assertive, as can be seen from the use in them of non-assertive forms.

– She works as hard as she ever did

– She works harder than she ever did

– He eats vegetables as much as any other food

– He eats vegetables more than any other food

Class functions of the comparative element:

The comparative element of a comparative construction can be any of the clause elements, apart from the verb.

1. Subject:

– More people use this brand than any other window-cleaning fluid

2. Direct object:

– She knows more history than most people

3. Indirect object:

– That toy has given more children happiness than any other

4. Subject complement:

– Lionel is more relaxed than he used to be

5. Object complement:

– She thinks her children more obedient than last year

6. Adverbial:

– You´ ve been working much harder than I

7. Prepositional complement:

– She is applied for more jobs than Joyce

The same range is available for the comparative element in comparisons of equivalence.

– As many people use this brand as any other window-cleaning fluid

Ellipsis in comparative clauses:

Ellipsis is a part of the comparative clauses which is likely to occur when that part is a repetition of something in the matrix clause. Since it is normal for the 2 clauses to be closely parallel both in structure and content, ellipsis is the rule rather than the exception in comparative constructions:

– James enjoys the theatre more than Susan enjoys the theatre

– James enjoys the theatre more than Susan enjoys it

– James enjoys the theatre more than Susan does

– James enjoys the theatre more than Susan

– James enjoys the theatre more

The comparative element is the hinge between the matrix clause and the comparative clause. Since the comparative element specifies the standard of comparison, the same standard cannot be specified again in the comparative clause.

– * Jane is healthier than her sister is healthy

The standards of comparison in the 2 clauses may be different

– Mary is cleverer than Jane is pretty

Ambiguity through ellipsis:

When normal ellipsis is taken to its fullest extent, ambiguity can arise as to whether a remaining noun phrase is subject or object

– He loves his dog more than his children

The above example could mean either

– (1) Than his children loves his dog

– (2) Than he loves his children

If his children is replaced by a pronoun, formal English makes the distinction

– He loves his dog more than they

– He loves his dog more than them

Partial contrast:

The contrast may affect only tense or the addition of a modal auxiliary. In such cases, it is normal to omit the rest of the comparative clause after the auxiliary.

– I hear it more clearly than I did (than I used to hear it)

– I get up later than I should (than I should get up)

If the contrast lies only in tense, it may be expressed in the comparative clause solely by an adverbial

– She will enjoy it more than (she enjoyed it) last year

This provides the basis for the total ellipsis of the subordinate clause in examples like:

– You are slimmer (than you were)

– You are looking better (than you were looking)

Enough and too:

There are comparative constructions that express the contrasting notions of sufficiency and excess, chiefly with enough and too followed by a to- infinitive clause.

Paraphrase pairs may be constructed with antonymous items

– They are rich enough to own a car

– They are not too poor to own a car

If the context allows, the infinitive clause may be omitted.

The negative force of too is shown in the use of non-assertive forms

– She is old enough to do some work

– She is too old to do any work

The infinitive clause may contain an overt subject

– It moves too quickly for most people to see (it)

When there is no subject in the infinitive clause, it is identified with the superordinate subject or with the indefinite subject

– She writes quickly enough to finish the paper on time (for her to finish the paper on time)

So…. (that) and such …… (that):

The correlatives so…. (that) and such …… (that) introduce constructions that combine the notions of sufficiency or excess with that of result.

So is an adverb premodifying an adjective or adverb and such is a predeterminer

Paraphrase pairs may be obtained between these constructions when the that-clause is negative and constructions with too and an infinitive clause.

– It is so good a movie that we mustn´t miss it

– It is too good a movie to miss

– It was such a pleasant day that I didn´t want to go to school

– It was too pleasant a day to go to school

There may also be similar paraphrases with constructions with enough when the that clause is positive

– It flies so fast that it can beat the speed record

– It flies fast enough to beat the speed record

The subordinator that may be omitted from the that-clause. An informal variant substitutes the intensifier that for so and omits the subordinator that

– I was that tired I couldn´ t keep my eyes open

The formal construction so/such…..as with the infinitive is sometimes used in place of so/such with a that-clause.

– He was such a violent person as to make even his closest companions fear him

– His temper was so violent as to make even his closest companions fear him