Comparatives/Superlatives: Comparatives, superlatives, two

November 13, 2008: Issue 264

Ever wonder why we say “She’s the smartest person in the room” but not “She’s the intelligentest”? Why we say “That’s the prettiest flower” but not “That’s the beautifullest”?

The key is syllable count. Most one-syllable adjectives in English take -er and -est to create their comparative and superlative forms:
cute, cuter, cutest
new, newer, newest

Adjectives of three or more syllables take the words more and most:
adorable, more adorable, most adorable
contemporary, more contemporary, most contemporary

And two-syllable adjectives … well, they fall into one of those great gray areas that make us love English so much. Our best advice is to go by what sounds right:
lively, livelier, liveliest
playful, more playful, most playful

Awwww: Speaking of cute, adorable, and playful, get a dose of puppies.

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