Good, better and best ways to compare

We live in a competitive world.

We want to be good at what we do, and there is always someone better than we. If we interact with a number of people or groups, one is likely, eventually, to be rated best.

You have just read examples of three adjectives: good is the positive or primary term; better is comparative (we just cannot resist comparing); and best is the superlative form (notice the first five letters, "super").

A few rules can help us spell the comparative (for two items) and superlative (for three or more) forms.

If the adjective has one syllable, we can add "er" for the comparative and "est" for the superlative — fast, faster, fastest; high, higher, highest.

If the single syllable has a consonant/vowel/consonant spelling, that final consonant needs to be doubled before adding the ending — big, bigger, biggest; sad, sadder, saddest; fat, fatter, fattest.

Two-syllable adjectives can form comparatives by adding "er" or by preceding the adjective with "more." Their superlative adds either "est" or precedes the word with "most." Both forms may be used, though one is usually more popular. If we are not certain about the ending for a two-syllable word, it is safe, safer or safest to use "more" and "most" — tangled, more tangled, most tangled.

When the adjective ends with a "y," change the "y" to "i" before adding the ending — busy, busier, busiest; happy, happier, happiest.

Adjectives with three or more syllables use more and most for the comparative and superlative — beautiful, more beautiful, most beautiful; creative, more creative, most creative; expensive, more expensive, most expensive.

Because we cannot find very many rules without an exception or two, be aware of those irregular comparatives and superlatives — good, better, best; little, less, least; bad, worse, worst.

If you have given this a careful (primary) look and have granted more meticulous (comparative) attention to the forms than usual, correctly spelling the varied degrees of adjectives will be one of the simplest (superlative) tasks you can do.

All competitive challenges should be so easy.

— Sandi Ekberg taught high school English in Medford for 30 years, with a special interest in vocabulary, grammar and usage. If you have grammar questions you would like answered, email her at

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