Comparative and Superlative Adjectives in German Grammar

Introduction

Comparative and Superlative adjectives in German are quite similiar to the forms in English Grammar. We use comparative adjective to compare things. There are three comparative forms in German: positive (schön), comparative (schöner) and superlative (am schönsten).

Learn how to form comparative and superlative Adjectives in German grammar. In the exercises, you can practise what you have learnt.

Example

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

Positive Adjectives

The positive form is the basic form of the adjective. We use it in the comparative expression so … wieas … as.

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

Other comparative expressions which use positive adjectives 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 Adjectives

The comparative is the first form of comparison. The ending -er is added to the adjective and the sentences is constructed with als (than).

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

In German, all comparative adjectives are formed with -er. They differ from English comparative forms in that they are never formed with the word mehr (more).

Example:
interessant → interessanterinteressting → more interessting
but not: interessant → mehr interessant

Superlative Adjectives

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. The formation is the same for all adjectives regardless of how many syllables they have.

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

Exceptions to the Rule

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

Table of Irregular Comparative and Superlative Adjectives

irregular comparative forms
positivecomparativesuperlative
gutgood besserbetter best-best
vielmany mehrmore meist-most
nahnear nähernearer nächst-nearest
hochhigh höherhigher höchst-highest
großbig größerbigger größt-biggest

Attributive Adjectives

  • Attributive adjectives have to be declined in all comparative forms. To do this, 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 the ending -sten.
    Example:
    wichtig – wichtiger – am wichtigstenimportant – more important – most important
  • Predicative adjectives can form the superlative not only with am but also with the definite article. When 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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