Read the following sentences:

    1. John is tall.
    2. Peter is taller than John.
    3. Harry is the tallest of the three.

    In sentence 1, the adjective tall merely says something about John’s height. It doesn’t state how tall John is. In sentence 2, the adjective taller is used to compare John’s height with Peter’s height.

    In sentence 3, the adjective tallest is used to compare Harry’s height with the height of John and Peter.

    We have thus seen that adjectives change in form to show comparison. These different forms of the adjective are called the degrees of comparison.

    In the examples given above, the adjective tall is said to be in the positive degree. The adjective taller is said to be in the comparative degree and the adjective tallest is said to be in the superlative degree.

    The positive degree of an adjective is the adjective in its simple form. It is used to denote the mere existence of some quality. Adjectives in the positive degree are used when no comparison is made.

    The comparative degree of an adjective shows a higher degree of the quality than that is present in the positive degree. It is used when two things or two sets of things are compared.

    • Peter is smarter than John.
    • Which of the two sisters is the prettier?
    • Apples are dearer than oranges.

    The superlative degree of an adjective denotes the highest degree of the quality. It is used when more than two things or sets of things are compared.

    • Peter is the smartest boy in the class.
    • Iron is the most useful of all metals.
    • Alice is the prettiest girl in the neighborhood.

    It is possible to change the degree of comparison without changing the
    meaning of a sentence. Study the following examples.

    • Positive: I am as strong as him.
      Comparative: He is not stronger than me.

    As you can probably see, both sentences mean the same.

    • Positive: No other girl in the class is as tall as Alice.

    In the sentence given above a comparison is made between Alice and other
    girls in her class using the positive adjective tall. The same idea can be
    expressed using the comparative adjective taller and the superlative
    adjective tallest.

    • Comparative: Alice is taller than any other girl in the class.
    • superlative: Alice is the tallest girl in the class.

    More examples are given below:

    • Positive: No other metal is as precious as gold.
    • Comparative: Gold is more precious than any other metal.
    • Superlative: Gold is the most precious of all metals.
    • Superlative: India is the largest democracy in the world.
    • Comparative: India is larger than any other democracy in the world.
    • Positive: No other democracy in the world is as large as India.
    • Superlative: Susie is one of the cleverest girls in the class.
    • Comparative: Susie is cleverer than most other girls in the class.
    • Positive: Few girls in the class are as clever as Susie.


    We use the comparative to compare one person, thing or group with another
    person, thing etc. Therefore, the thing that is compared must be excluded
    from the group of things with which it is compared. This is usually done by
    using the word ‘other’.

    Study the given sentence:

    • Iron is more useful than any metal.

    The sentence given above doesn’t make sense because it means that iron is
    more useful than iron itself. (When you say any metal it includes
    iron.). It should, therefore, be rewritten as ‘Iron is more useful than any
    other metal.’

    More examples are given below:

    • John is taller than any other boy in the class. (NOT John is taller than any boy in the class.)
    • Shakespeare is greater than any other English poet. (NOT Shakespeare is greater than any English poet.)

    The superlative is used to compare somebody or something with the whole
    group to which he/she/it belongs.


    • John is taller than any other boy in the class. (John is excluded from the group.)
    • John is the tallest boy in the class. (John is a part of the group.)
    • He is the best player in the team. (He is part of the team.)
    • He is better than any other player in the team. (He is excluded from the group.)

    After superlatives, we do not usually use of with singular nouns.

    • I am the happiest man in the world. (NOT I am the happiest man of the world.)

    However, of can be used before plural nouns or pronouns.

    • She is the tallest of them all.

    We can express the same idea using different degrees of comparison. Study the sentences given below.

    John is as tall as Mike.

    Tall is an adjective in the positive degree. Here we are comparing the height of two people with a positive adjective. If John and Mike are of the same height, Mike is not taller than John.

    See how the same idea is expressed using both positive and comparative adjectives.

    John is as tall as Mike. = Mike is not taller than John.

    Another example is given below

    • Very few countries in the world are as large as China. (Positive)
    • China is larger than most other countries in the world. (Comparative)
    • China is one of the largest countries in the world. (Superlative)
    • No other man was as strong as Hercules. (Positive)
    • Hercules was stronger than any other man. (Comparative)
    • Hercules was the strongest man in the world. (Superlative)
    • No other boy in the class is as intelligent as James. (Positive)
    • James is more intelligent than any other boy in the class. (Comparative)
    • James is the most intelligent boy in the class. (Superlative)
    •  Very few Indian saints were as popular as Vivekananda. (Positive)
    • Vivekananda was more popular than most other Indian saints. (Comparative)
    • Vivekananda was one of the most popular Indian saints.  (Superlative)
    •  Maria is not as intelligent as Sonia. (Positive)
    • Sonia is more intelligent than Maria. (Comparative)

    When a comparison is made between two individuals we do not normally use the superlative.

    Alice is the prettier of the two sisters. (More natural than ‘Alice is the prettiest of the two sisters.’)