EN: earlier / more early

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by Alephbethgimel, Nov 14, 2013.

  1. Alephbethgimel Senior Member

    I have heard that the comparative of 2-syllable adverbs ending in -ly are formed with more (e.g. more slowly), whereas 2-syllable adjectives ending in -ly have -er at the end (e.g. sillier, earlier). Why then 'early' as an adverb is 'earlier' and not 'more early' (e.g. he came earlier than her)? Thank you for your help.
  2. Micia93

    Micia93 Senior Member

    in the center of France
    I have been taught that it was due to the length of the adjective : above 2 syllables, you have to use "more"
  3. radiok Senior Member

    UK English
    According to this site, if an adverb takes the same form as the adjective (early, late, fast...) then you make comparatives and superlatives with -er and -est.

    Remember the -ly in early belongs to the word itself and isn't an adverbial suffix. :)
  4. Micia93

    Micia93 Senior Member

    in the center of France
    so what I have been taught is totally wrong Radiok?
  5. radiok Senior Member

    UK English
    I'm afraid I'm not the person to ask for hard-and-fast rules, Micia, as I've never taught English as a foreign language, but I'll give it a go... :eek:

    Normally, 2-or-more-syllable adjectives require "more", both in adjectival and adverbial form:
    careful / more careful and carefully / more carefully
    beautiful / more beautiful and beautifully / more beautifully

    2-syllable adjectives ending in y use "-ier" for comparative adjectives but "more" for comparative adverbs :
    happy / happier and happily / more happily

    I expect the above is what you have been taught, and counts for almost all adjectives.

    Adjectives that remain the same in adverb form are a kind of exception, though:
    early / earlier and early / earlier
    fast / faster and fast / faster
    hard / harder and hard / harder
  6. Micia93

    Micia93 Senior Member

    in the center of France
    thank you Radiok. I was young when I was taught that, and I suppose the teacher just wanted to remain simple. For instance, I would have spontanously said "more happily" just because it has 3 syllables! (and I remember the exceptions too)
    this is a trick, but it works! ;)
  7. Alephbethgimel Senior Member

    Thank you very much Micia93 and Radiok!
    I've got the help
  8. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    Actually, you almost managed to find the rule in all this! There's just one thing you missed: two-syllable adjectives ending in -y generally have 3-syllable adverb forms (adj: easy > easier / adv: easily > more easily)... so it makes sense that these 3-syllable adverbs use "more" as for the comparative. It is only when the 2-syllable -ly word is BOTH an adjective AND and adverb that we use the same comparative forms for both parts of speech (adj & adv: early > earlier). :)

    Several grammar pages lay things out quite clearly.

    Comparative adjectives: here, here
    Comparative adverbs: here, here, also here for general spelling
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2013

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