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Forming comparative and superlative modifiers

Learn how to form and use comparative and superlative modifiers.

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Video transcript

- [Voiceover] Hey grammarians. So last time we talked about Raúl the penguin, and how he was happier than another penguin, Cesar. But I wanna talk today about how to form the comparative and the superlative. How to compare, how to say something is more than or most in an unfamiliar situation, if you're looking at a word for the first time or you're trying to figure out how to make a word comparative or superlative. To be like, oh well I've got this word cute, like that's a cute little baby penguin, but how do I say that it is more cute than another animal. Well, there's a shorthand for that. Sometimes you can say more cute, certainly. But you can also say cuter. And you can furthermore say cutest. And it turns out that there are a series of sound rules in English that govern the way that we choose to make these words go. So I'll show you each of them in turn. So we've got this little table that I'm building here, and we've got the description, how it looks in the comparative, and how it looks in the superlative. So if you take a word like cute, So if you take a word like cute, words like cute have one syllable, one word sound. Cute. So a word like cute, that is one syllable and ends in an E. All we have to do to make it comparative is add an R. So, add R, and that gives us cuter. For the comparative, all you have to do is add ST, and you get the word cutest. But what if you have a word like big? If you try to add just R to that, it would just look like bigr, or ST to that, it would look like bigst, and that's not really how we would form these words in standard English, that doesn't go because they're inconvenient to say, we like to have vowels in between some of those consonant sounds, between the b and the g and the st, so what you do, if it's one syllable and if it's got one vowel in the middle like I, like that, one vowel, and it ends in a consonant like a G, then what you do is double the consonant and add ER. So this word big ends in a G, so what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna, for the comparative, I'm gonna say big, and then I'm gonna double that G, I'm gonna use it twice. Bigger. Like that, and then add the ER. Likewise for the superlative, same thing. So you double the consonant at the end of the word, and then you add EST, so it becomes BIG and then I double this consonant sound, so BIGGEST, biggest. And for words like short and sweet, oh I should clarify. For this one, for big, this should end in one consonant. So BIG, there's only one consonant there, because for words like short and sweet that have one syllable, but either have two vowels like sweet does, so it's E and E or two consonants at the end, what you do is you just add ER so shorter or sweeter. And for the superlative form, add EST. So shortest or sweetest. And now we're getting into the weird stuff. So if you take a word like shiny, which is two syllables, and it ends in Y, then what you have to do is you change Y into an I, and you add ER. So shiny becomes shinier. See how this Y becomes and I here? Same thing for superlative, the Y becomes an I, and then you add EST, so shiniest. Now, if you've got a word like magnificent, magnificent, this is a four syllable word, it means like super huge, super great, super wonderful, you've got a word like that, you take a word like that, it's a little bit too big to be adding more parts to the way that standard American English works. So you wouldn't say magnificenter, or magnificentest. It just sounds unwieldy, 'cause the word's already pretty long, so if you've got a two or more syllable word, that doesn't end in Y, then you just have to add the word more to the beginning, so more magnificent, and most magnificent. So let's say that you're encountering a word you've never seen before. And in a sentence you have to compare, let's say the word is blarfy, I don't know what it means, probably something gross. So if we wanna compare two really gross meals, like a steaming pile of dog food covered in flies, or a plate of ancient cheese that 3000 years old. You gotta eat it, gross. Which one is grosser? But you have to describe them using the word blarfy, this word we've never seen before. Well, what do we know about blarfy? Well, it's got two syllables, blarfy, so that automatically crosses out any of this stuff, it does end in a Y, blarfy, so we know that it's probably going to behave like shiny, like the word shiny, because it's got two syllables and it ends in Y. So, I'm gonna say that the dog food is less blarfy, and the cheese is blarfier, in fact this cheese is the blarfiest food on the planet. Now don't get me wrong, I love a good stinky cheese, but this one in particular, this 3000 year old cheese, super blarfy, in fact, I'm just gonna go so far as to say it is the blarfiest. You can blarf anything. David out.