English Grammar: Comparatives

When you want to compare two things in English, use a comparative form. Here are the basic grammar rules for making comparisons with nouns, verbs and adjectives.

To compare nouns

Use “more” to show an increase, and “fewer” or “less” to show a decrease. Use “fewer” for countable nouns, and “less” for uncountable nouns. For an explanation on countable and uncountable nouns, see our page English nouns.

“There are more people in the supermarket today.”
“There is more coffee if you want some.”

“There are fewer people in the supermarket today.” (“fewer” because “people” is a countable noun)
“We have less money this week for shopping.” (“less” because “money” is an uncountable noun)

To compare verbs

Use “more” to show an increase and “less” to show a decrease.

“I’m sure he loves me more! He sends me chocolates or flowers every day.”
“He eats less than me.”

To compare adjectives

When the adjective is one syllable, add -er to make a comparative.

Which city is bigger? Rio de Janeiro or Mexico City?
I think Mexico City is bigger.

Who is older? You or your sister?
My sister is older.

When the adjective ends in -y, change the -y to -i and add -er.

“He’s happier now he lives in the countryside.”
Which city is prettier? Oxford or Bath?

When the adjective is two syllables (and more), use “more” before the adjective. (Don’t add -er or -ier to the end of the adjective.)

“Paris is a beautiful city.”
“I agree, but I think Rome is more beautiful…”

“Who was more intelligent? Einstein or Archimedes?”

Note: some two-syllable adjectives can have both types of endings: “more + adjective” and “adjective + er”.

clever = cleverer / more clever
gentle = gentler / more gentle
cruel = crueler / more cruel
polite = politer / more polite

Irregular adjectives

Some adjectives have different comparative forms. For example:

good – better

“Sunflower oil is good, but olive oil is better for you.”

bad – worse

“Jack is bad at Maths, but his brother Dave is worse.”

far – further

“London is far from the seaside, but Oxford is further.”

Using “than”

When you mention what you are comparing something to, use “than”.

“There are more people in the supermarket today than yesterday.”
“We have less money for shopping this week than last week.”
“I’m sure he loves me more than before!”
“My sister is older than me.”
“He is happier than me.”
“Rome is more beautiful than Paris, in my opinion.”
“She is cleverer than her sister.”
“Olive oil is better than sunflower oil.”
“Dave is worse than Jack at Maths.”

Common errors

Don’t use “that” instead of “than”.
“She is more clever than her sister” (Not: “she is more clever that…”)

Don’t forger to use “than” if you mention the second thing.
“He is more handsome than his brother” (Not: “He is more handsome his brother”)

Don’t forget to use the -er form for one-syllable adjectives
“Russia is colder than the UK” (Not: “Russia is more cold than…”)

For more information, see our grammar page How to make comparisons.

Comparatives Exercise

Choose the correct answer.

Now go on to the next page to talk about tourist attractions and to practise your listening: English Conversations for Tourists