JS Tip 85: From the Writing Workshops: Comparatives

Isabelle Paulson of the City of Carlsbad sent us this e-mail:

I keep hearing people using “more” like this: “He is more shy than the rest.”

Shouldn’t it be, “He is shyer than the rest?” Why do I hear the word “more” instead of the correct usage? Is this a changing trend in our language?

Isabelle, you’re absolutely right.

It should be “He is shyer than the rest,” and it isn’t a changing trend in the language.

Let’s talk.

Comparatives compare things. We’ll talk about the guidance in general because the guidance has lots of exceptions.  

If You’re Using a One-Syllable Word in the Comparison

Add “-er” to end of the word.

“Shy” becomes “shyer” (or “shyer”): “He is shyer than the others.”  

“Rich” becomes “richer”: “This chocolate is richer than that.”

If You’re Using a Two-, Three-, or More-Syllable Word in the Comparison

Place “more” before the word.  

“Difficult” becomes “More difficult”: “He is more difficult than the others.”

“Expensive” becomes “More expensive”: This car is more expensive than that.”

If You’re Using a Two-Syllable Word Ending in “-y” in the Comparison

Remove the “-y” and add “-ier.”

“Happy” becomes “happier”: “Oh, John. I’m happier than I’ve ever been.”

“Dry” becomes “drier”: “This towel is drier than that one.”

But be careful. Exceptions abound:

“Good” becomes “better.”

“Bad” becomes “worse.”

Sometimes it gets goofy. Or goofier.

Let us know if you have questions. We love this stuff.