Comparative: more <adj> or <adj>er

Discussion in 'English Only' started by JLanguage, Apr 19, 2005.

  1. JLanguage Senior Member

    Georgia, US
    USA: American English, Learning Hebrew and Spanish
    If you come across an unfamiliar adjective how do you know whether to use more _____ or_____er?

    Do you just have to look it up in the dictionary?

    Or is there an actual rule?

    Thanks,
    -Jonathan.
     
  2. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    Correct me if I'm wrong but I think we can use 'more' with almost each adjective, can't we??
     
  3. Markus

    Markus Senior Member

    Paris, France
    Canada - English
    I found a really good link for French people learning English on another forum that explains this rule completely, but I don't think we're allowed to link here. I think the short rule (meaning that it has exceptions) is that adjectives with two or less syllables are modified with "er"; otherwise they are modified with "more".
     
  4. JLanguage Senior Member

    Georgia, US
    USA: American English, Learning Hebrew and Spanish
    Not if there's a comparative from of the adjective.

    Ex. You are more smart than I am.:cross:
    You are smarter than I am.:tick:

    Ex. You are more intelligent than I am.:tick:
    You are intelligenter than I am.:cross:

    Ex. Wood is harder than paper.:tick:
    Wood is more hard than paper.:cross:
     
  5. JLanguage Senior Member

    Georgia, US
    USA: American English, Learning Hebrew and Spanish
    You can post links as long as the sites are within the forum rules, but you need a certain number of posts first. (To prevent spamming)
     
  6. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    sorry I forgot to add with almost each adjective that has more that one syllable
     
  7. JLanguage Senior Member

    Georgia, US
    USA: American English, Learning Hebrew and Spanish
    You're right then. This is probably true with most adjectives simply because adding er would make the word too difficult to pronounce.
     
  8. te gato

    te gato Senior Member

    Calgary, Alberta
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)
    Two easy rules...
    Do not use more with a comparative adjective formed with-er
    Do not ues most with a superlative adjective formed with-est

    te gato;)
     
  9. Markus

    Markus Senior Member

    Paris, France
    Canada - English
    Here is the rule, translated from French on a post on the AnglaisFacile website:


    Formation :
    -Short adjective => adjective + -er + than
    -Long adjective => more + adjective +than

    *Adjective + -er:
    - Monosyllabic adjectives => -er ( fast/faster)
    - 2-syllable adjectives terminated by -y + -er => lucky/luckier- early/earlier
    - 2-syllable adjectives terminated by -e , -er, -ow => noble/nobler- clever/cleverer- narrow/narrower
    - Adjectives terminated by
    vowel + consonant = doubling of last letter => fat/fatter
    - Some 2-syllable adjectives form can take either form '-er' or 'more'=>
    clever, narrow, quiet, simple, shallow

    More + adjective
    - Adjectives with more than 2 syllables => more expensive
    - 2-syllable adjectives not terminated by -y, -e, -er, -ow => more pleasant- more useful
    - Participative past,1, 2, 3 syllables or more => more drunk(ivre)- more tired- more delighted (sorry, I'm not sure what this one means)
    - Comparison of 2 attributes always takes 'more'=> more stupid than silly

    *adjectives that allow 2 comparative constructions: (-er & more )
    - common, cruel, gentle, handsome, likely, mature, narrow, obscure, pleasant, polite, remote, shallow, simple, stupid, subtle-
    - Some adjectives with the prefix '-un' allow 2 constructions as -er or more : unhealthy, unkind, unlikely, unlucky

    *Irregular comparatives:
    good & well /better- bad & badly/worse- far/farther& further- old/elder
    -old => comparatif = 'older' but when you're talking about two members of the same family you use 'the elder'- 'The elder' is never followed by a construction with 'than'. It is used with 'the' or a possessive adjective :
    ex: Tom is older than Jack. Tom is my elder son (= my older son)
    * Note : You don't say 'He is more ill/iller' => but=>
    'He's worse ...or better'
    To form the comparative of 'little', we use 'smaller' and not 'littler'.


    I bet an English speaker would never realize how complicated it is!!
     
  10. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    yeap, but note that there're adjectives that have more that one syllable and you ad er and est eg:clever-cleverer-cleverest; pretty-prettier-prettiest; etc.

    Regards,
    Thomas
     
  11. JLanguage Senior Member

    Georgia, US
    USA: American English, Learning Hebrew and Spanish
    Thank you very much for the translation.
     
  12. Nick

    Nick Senior Member

    Western USA
    USA, English
    Trivial note:
    Even though it is only one syllable, the comparative form of "fun" is "more fun", not "funer" or "funner".
     
  13. Markus

    Markus Senior Member

    Paris, France
    Canada - English
    True... though I say funner and I defy any grammarian who tells me I'm wrong, because I believe it should be a word. ;)
     
  14. te gato

    te gato Senior Member

    Calgary, Alberta
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)
    Hey Markus;
    Us Albertans should stick together..now isnt that just funnest thing you have heard!!...:D
    I quote:
    You will certainly find "funner" and "funnest" in the dictionaries nowadays, primarily because today's fun-loving youngsters are in need of comparatives and superlatives for "fun" and use these words all the time. The adjectival use of "fun" is accepted rather widely: "This is a fun thing to do," but the use of the "-er" and "-est" forms grate on the ears of anyone over thirty. "To traditionalists," according to Garner, "the adjectival fun and its comparative forms remain blemishes in both writing and speech
    source: The Grammar Logs.

    te gato;)
     
  15. Markus

    Markus Senior Member

    Paris, France
    Canada - English
    I find language traditionalists fascinating. Don't they realize that the language they believe to be perfect would sound completely corrupted to the traditionalists of previous generations? It's as if that believe that language evolved to a pinnacle of perfection -- that point being around the time that they were in university -- and has been degrading since that point. Language is ever changing and evolving and those who cannot accept it are doomed to be lost in the past.

    As an example: ain't used to be a perfectly acceptable contraction. We can say "he isn't" or "he's not", but for the first person we only have "I'm not". Why do we not have a second contraction in the first person? "I ain't" used to be perfectly acceptable, but now it is considered incorrect and extremely slangish. However, it's perfectly possible that one day ain't will again become accepted. So you will have a few generations of people stuck in a window in which "ain't" is not a word, with all those before and after accepting it. I guess this is why it's a good thing humans don't live forever!

    Also, out of curiousity, how can one use the word "fun" not as an adjective?

    And go Alberta! :D

    Markus
     
  16. Markus

    Markus Senior Member

    Paris, France
    Canada - English
    In addition, it's the inevitable evolution of language that leads me to believe that the rigid standardization of English spelling was a mistake (or at least deserves to be updated occassionally).
     
  17. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    US-English
    One thing may be wrong:

    This is my gut feeling, although I may turn out to be wrong:

    You are more smart than I am. OK
    Wood is more hard than paper. OK

    These may not be as common, but they are not wrong. When a word has one syllable, you have a choice. We tend to use the "er" form because it is shorter, so using "more" in these cases sounds a bit forced or stiff in many cases.

    Now, there may be a rule *I* don't know, in which case I will have to eat my words shortly. :)

    Gaer
     
  18. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
    A minor correction.
     
  19. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    US-English
    How about "funnier"? :)

    Gaer
     
  20. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
    Thank you. This is interesting. If I've understood it, I must say that I am denser than a log, and not more dense than a lead ingot.
    That makes me feel duller than a well-used pencil, but not more dull than a rule breaker.

    regards,
    Cuchuflete
     
  21. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    US-English
    Cuchu, less here is not wrong, although there are countless teachers who will lower a grade if someone uses it this way. :)

    If you want to pass a freshman English class, use "fewer" for anything that is countable. But if you want to be a fine writer, you should feel perfectly free to use "less".

    This "fewer rule" was never really a rule. A man by the name of Baker, in 1770, expressed his own taste and preference, simply saying that in his opinion, "fewer" sounded better. I can get the exact quote for you if you wish.

    Then, as so often happens, this opinion became a "rule", based on nothing. And that's why so many people stubbornly thumb their noses at it "less mistakes".

    "Less" has been used for well over 1000 years in the sense of "fewer", and the myth that "fewer" is either the only choice or the only right one is based on what people read in countless schoolbooks and handbooks. :)

    Gaer
     
  22. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
    Thanks Gaer,

    I guess I was fewer correct than I had thought.

    :)
     
  23. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    funny funnier funniest;)

    fun funner funnest these are also correct, me think

    Thomas
     
  24. te gato

    te gato Senior Member

    Calgary, Alberta
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)
    Ahummm..gaer...are you sure?
    I was always taught in English Grammar that you use 'fewer' like you said..for countable things...'I have fewer socks.'...
    'Less' is used for quantities we can not count..'I have less energy than you do.'
    'Less' is also used for numerical and statistical...
    when did they change this on me?..mmmm..I must have been counting my pennies that I have less than you and ended up having fewer energy...:D
    te gato;)

     
  25. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
    I'm glad Gaer has less claws than Te Gato.

    I don't rely on rules that are senseless. I do wonder if usage matters.
    Does it make sense to distinguish between things that can and cannot be counted?

    Which sounds better to your ears?

    --I have fewer reasons to accept a stupid rule.
    --I have less reasons to accept a stupid rule.

    Are they equivalent, more or less?
    Are they distinct, more or fewer?

    Confused,
    Cuchu
     
  26. te gato

    te gato Senior Member

    Calgary, Alberta
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)
    Hey Cuchu KIA;
    I also have fewer and less reasons to accept a stupid rule..than you..:D
    but..there are at times when fewer just does not sound right...'fewer energy than you'...a little cavemanish...ug..woman bring water..

    te gato;)
     
  27. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    Regards,
    Thomas
     
  28. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I'm not a native speaker, but I've noticed that both "less" and "fewer" have the same antonym, "more".
     
  29. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    US-English
    Yes. I am VERY sure about this.

    And you may notice that I almost never say that I am sure about ONE WAY being right. What I'm pointing out, as strongly as I know how, is that people keep insisting that there is only one way to write something in English when it is no so. In fact, we already had this exact same discussion in another thread, and I gave more infor there. I wish I could find it. :)

    Gaer
     
  30. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    US-English
    Cuchu,

    There is more to the "less" and "fewer" thing. I wish the whole article were on line, not in a book. I'll try to get more information later. The sentences you just used illustrates the second point made, that native speakers will seldom use the wrong word if they are just left alone and NOT taught "the rule".

    I would go with "fewer reasons" also. I'll try to get more information for later. Gotta run!

    Gaer
     
  31. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I found two sources that confirm what Gaer said:

    http://alt-usage-english.org/excerpts/fxlessvs.html

    http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/cmosfaq/cmosfaq.LessorFewer.html

    From the first:

     
  32. te gato

    te gato Senior Member

    Calgary, Alberta
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)
    Merrruuoo Ffffiiittttfiitttt;
    I did not insist that there was the ONE ALL TRUE RULE...I simply stated that in school way back when...that was what I was taught...I did not say it was correct..right..or written in stone...:)
    yet...like I pointed out to Cuchu..is that there are times when you should not use the word fewer..ie..fewer energy? as in...I had (less) fewer energy than you..it just does not sound right..but hey..by all means say what ever you please..I am not the Grammar police..:eek: far from it..

    te gato;)
     
  33. Markus

    Markus Senior Member

    Paris, France
    Canada - English
    You are right te gato. You cannot use "fewer" when you should use "less", but it sounds okay (to my ears) to use "less" when you should use "fewer".
     
  34. te gato

    te gato Senior Member

    Calgary, Alberta
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)
    Ahhh an Albertan to the rescue..:D thank you..
    I agree..there are times that using 'fewer' just does not sound right..and less does..(to my Albertan ears)..

    te gato;)
     
  35. vbede772 New Member

    New York
    United States--Midwest/Upper South, English
    Piling on this one:

    I don't think I ever use fewer. It is always less to me. I was never taught a rule that says it is incorrect, and if I may be unhumble, I consider myself an educated person.

    I love language, words, regional variations etc. As long as we can understand each other I see little use for such "rules", if they exist.
     
  36. Nick

    Nick Senior Member

    Western USA
    USA, English
    In truth, I think I usually negate the phrase anyway and so it doesn't really matter.

    Instead of saying "There are less/fewer cars on the road today.", I would say "There aren't as many cars on the road today.".
     
  37. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
    Thanks Gaer,

    My jocular post was intended to show exactly what you have said: Usage is an adequate 'rule'. And what sounds right to most of of, most of the time, is that 'fewer' is used with items we can count. I would rather rely on that than on a rule book.

    Growing ever fewer coherent;)

    Cuchu

     
  38. te gato

    te gato Senior Member

    Calgary, Alberta
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)
    Uhmmm..Cuchu KIA;
    Yes I be thinking you are growing fewer coherent..but just a less..
    just one fewer correction...most of us...:D ahhh..language with no rules..i so much think i like it..

    te gato;)
     
  39. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    US-English
    I'm going to start a new thread. I did a search and could not find any thread specifically addressing this subject (less/fewer). Would you guys join me there?

    Gaer
     
  40. te gato

    te gato Senior Member

    Calgary, Alberta
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)
    gaer;
    I will...but there are fewer of us now than before..:D

    te gato;)
     
  41. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
    And we are less combative, especially since Te Gato declawed me for fewer attention to careful typing and proofing.
     
  42. te gato

    te gato Senior Member

    Calgary, Alberta
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)
    Cuchu KIA;
    No no no...Less declawed..just a friendly swat..:D
    te gato;)
     
  43. jjrobert New Member

    USA English
    My 12-year-old daughter and I were trying to sort this out, oddly enough starting from "funner" :)

    I think the rule above that the translator had questions about means that a past participle should use more/most no matter how many syllables. A past participle is a past-tense verb that is used as an adjective like "tired" in the example, or eaten, written, done, etc.

    My guess is that many of these already have an -en or -ed suffix or something similar to make them past tense so the rule avoids piling on more suffixes.

    On "funner", I was just noticing that "doner" wouldn't sound right even if the past participle rule didn't exist. Is there perhaps a rule about using more/most if the word ends in -n or can someone come up with some exceptions? "Tanner" sounds odd, "browner" is borderline to my ear, but "leaner" and "meaner" sound OK. Ack.
     

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