Comparative Forms of Adjectives

Introduction

We use comparative forms when we are comparing things with each other. There are three comparative forms: positive, comparative, and superlative.

Example

Maria läuft so schnell wie Susanne. Friederike läuft schneller als Maria. Friederike läuft am schnellsten. Sie ist die schnellste Läuferin.

Positive

The positive form is the basic form of the adjective, which we use with the comparison words so … wieas … as.

Example:
Maria läuft so schnell wie Susanne.Maria runs as fast as Susanne.

Further expressions which use positive comparisons are:

  • genauso … wiejust as … as
  • nicht so … wienot as … as
  • fast so … wiealmost as … as
  • doppelt so … wietwice as … as
  • halb so … wiehalf as … as

Comparative

The comparative is the first form of comparison. We construct the comparative with alsthan and add the ending er to the adjective.

Example:
Friederike läuft schneller als Maria.Friederike runs faster than Maria.

Superlative

The superlative is the highest form of comparison. We put am or the definite article in front of the adjective, and add ste(n) to the end.

Example:
Friederike läuft am schnellsten.Friederike runs the fastest.
Sie ist die schnellste Läuferin.She is the fastest runner.

Exceptions for the Comparatives

General Exceptions

  • Adjectives that end with d/t or s/ß/x/z usually form the superlative with est.
    Example:
    laut – lauter – am lautestenloud - louder - loudest
    heiß – heißer – am heißestenhot - hotter - hottest
  • Monosyllabic adjectives often form the comparative with an umlaut.
    Example:
    jung – jünger – am jüngstenyoung - younger - youngest
  • Some adjectives have irregular comparative forms (see table).
    Example:
    gut – besser – am bestengood - better - best
irregular comparative forms
positivecomparativesuperlative
gutgoodbesserbetterbest-best
vielmanymehrmoremeist-most
nahnearnähernearernächst-nearest
hochhighhöherhigherhöchst-highest
großbiggrößerbiggergrößt-biggest

Attributive Adjectives

  • Attributive adjectives have to be declined in all comparative forms. To do this, first we add the ending for the comparative form, then the ending for the declension. Attributive adjectives always form the superlative with the definite article.
    Example:
    der kleine Junge/der kleinere Junge/der kleinste Jungethe small boy/the smaller boy/the smallest boy
    ein kleiner Junge/ein kleinerer Junge/der kleinste Jungea small boy/a smaller boy/the smallest boy

Adverbial/Predicative Adjectives

  • Adverbial adjectives always form the superlative with am, and we add the ending sten to the adjective.
    Example:
    wichtig – wichtigeram wichtigstenimportant - more important - most important
  • Predicative adjectives can form the superlative not only with am but also with the definite article. If we’re using the definite article, we add the ending ste to the adjective.
    Example:
    Diese Aufgabe ist am wichtigsten.This assignment is the most important.
    Diese Aufgabe ist die wichtigste.This assignment is the most important.

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