Comparative, superlative: busy

Discussion in 'English Only' started by tomas no mas, Jul 18, 2006.

  1. tomas no mas New Member

    USA / American English
    The other day on a local TV station, an air conditioner repair man was quoted as saying "I am more busy than ever due to the heat wave". I realize that most people would probably say "I am busier than ever", but I was wanting to know if "more busy" is gramatically correct, also. My wife says it is incorrect, but my thinking is that if 'less busy' is gramatically correct, shouldn't 'more busy' be ok, too? We all realize that 'more busier' is gramatically incorrect. Thanks in advance for your assistance in clarifying this issue for me.
  2. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    More busy or busier, either will do.
  3. Tabac Senior Member

    Pacific Northwest (USA)
    U. S. - English
    I believe that "more" in place of "-er" is always correct [though often not used with the shorter words]. It is from the other direction that we need to pay attention. Generally, longer adjectives take "more".

    There may be some no-no's included in textual explanations.

    In this case, both sound o.k. to me, "busier & busiest" sounding better [not more good, irregular] than the other choice.
  4. Paulfromitaly

    Paulfromitaly MODerator

    Brescia (Italy)
    Why either? Are you not meant to use the -er -est form when possible?
  5. mgarizona

    mgarizona Senior Member

    Phoenix, AZ
    US - American English
    The OED states the general principle this way:

    With most adjs. and advs. of more than one syllable, and with all of more than two syllables, [more ___] is the normal mode of forming the comparative. A few monosyllables (e.g. right, just) normally form their comparatives in this way instead of taking the suffix -er.

    Then adds:

    [More is o]ften prefixed to monosyllabic and disyllabic adjs. and advs. which have otherwise a regular comparative in -er; as more true, more busy, more often = truer, busier, oftener. Esp. in phr. "I (or you, etc.) couldn't be more ______ = I, etc., am extremely ________.
    By mod. writers this alternative form is used (1) for special emphasis or clearness; (2) to preserve a balance of phrase when other comparatives with ‘more’ occur in the context; (3) to qualify the whole predicate rather than the single adj. or adv.
  6. Kelly B

    Kelly B Senior Member

    USA English
    There are many cases where either form works equally well, and this is one of them. On the other hand, -er sounds really strange with some adjectives. Those ending in -ed won't work with -er, for example:
    I am interesteder more interested.
    Edit: these would violate the rule mgarizona noted, anyway.
  7. Paulfromitaly

    Paulfromitaly MODerator

    Brescia (Italy)
    So why dictionaries just report the busier/busiest form? doesn't that mean it's the correct one?
  8. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Good question.
    I have never come across that as a "rule" - but then I have never come across most of the rules that non-natives know:)

    This time I am sure that the only real "rule" is that some words are so clumsy with -er and -est that we must use more ... and most .... I mean, could you imagine describing something as voluminouser. There is another thread that sets out the recommendations for this.

    It does not follow that we must not use more ... and most ... with the more simple words - like simple:D (that was an accident).
    For these it is entirely a matter of which sounds best in the context. I used more simple in that sentence without giving it any thought.
  9. Paulfromitaly

    Paulfromitaly MODerator

    Brescia (Italy)
    That's fair enough..would the use of more/most be considered correct also with monosyllable words like "fat" ? more fat instead of fatter?
  10. mgarizona

    mgarizona Senior Member

    Phoenix, AZ
    US - American English
    See the second part of my previous posting. (#5)

    Obviously you can write anything you like anytime as long as you have a reason to do so. There's a scene in Alice in Wonderland where Alice remarks, "Curiouser and curiouser." While it would be more gramatically correct to say "more and more curious," I've always felt that her surroundings make Alice's choice of phrase entirely appropriate.
  11. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Another good question:)
    My feeling, now that you have asked that good question, is that there is most flexibility of use with two-syllable words. I would be unlikely to write more fat, but I would be entirely comfortable with more funny, more happy .....

    The general rule for using -er and -est was mentioned in
    the comparative and superlative of "often" (Elroy - post #8.)
    I guess that dictionaries include the -er -est versions because that marks out which words definitely take that form, not intending to suggest that more xxx and most xxx are NOT possible.
  12. tomas no mas New Member

    USA / American English
    Thanks to everyone for the great feedback on my question. I've learned a great deal from your answers.
  13. river Senior Member

    U.S. English
    One style guide's opinion:
    "If a word ordinarily takes either the -er or the -est suffix -- and that formation sounds more natural -- it's poor style to use the two-word form with more or most."

    Busier, simpler, duller sound more natural to me.
  14. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I'm not disagreeing, but wondering if I'm the only one who would feel that more simple sometimes sounds more natural than simpler? For example in:
  15. river Senior Member

    U.S. English
    You're right. "The more simple" sounds more natural in your sentence.
  16. Gordonedi

    Gordonedi Senior Member

    UK (Scotland) English
    Somehow, duller never works for me, even though I try to make it sound correct by lingering on the double l in the middle.

    So instead of saying "I had a duller day than I expected.", I say "My day was more dull than I expected."

    There must be something deep in my subconscious causing this ! :)
  17. A90Six Senior Member

    England - English.
    Unfortunately for non-natives, I think for the one and two syllable words it is all down to how they sound, although some constructions would sound quite odd with the er/ier/est/iest endings, and some can't take them at all:
    Which is more likely, the use of more likely or likelier at the beginning of this sentence? I think it most likely that forer@ would agree that likelier and likeliest would sound strange in these two sentences.

    Of all the children involved in the accident, she is the most upset.

    I can't think of anything more strange.

    Which is more common, most kind-hearted or kindest-hearted.

    John is very outspoken, and no one is more frank.
    All of these sound good to me.:)
  18. goodness2009 New Member

    French- Algeria

    The two form of comparative are correct with adjectives of two syllables ending in "Y" ie; busy, happy, noisy, lazy...

  19. Liberty7 New Member

    My understanding is if the word is one syllable, you add -er and -est, rather than more or most.
    ex. big, bigger, biggest
    hard, harder, hardest
    small, smaller, smallest

    The exception to the rule is words that end in y, in a two syllable word, you add -er and -est, rather than more or most.
    ex. busy, busier, busiest
    tiny, tinier, tiniest,
    pretty, prettier, prettiest
    ugly, uglier, ugliest

    All other words that are more than one syllable use more or most.
    ex. beautiful, more beautiful, most beautiful
    terrific, more terrific, most terrific
    intelligent, more intelligent, most intelligent

    Try teaching this to 9 and 10 year olds whose first language is something other than English....difficult!!
    Good luck!

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