sourer / bitterer

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Senior Member
Hi, the WR dictionary and one of Japanese/English dictionaries I own say the comparative of sour is 'sourer.'
And according to the same dictionary I own, the comparative of bitter can be either 'bitterer' or 'more bitter.'

I'd like to know if you native English speakers actually use 'sourer' and 'bitterer."

Lemon is sourer than orange.
Lemon is more sour than orange.
Guinness is much bitterer than lager.
Guinness is much more bitter than lager.

  • Gavril

    Senior Member
    English, USA

    I almost always say more sour and more bitter. I might occasionally say sourer and bitterer, but there is a risk to using either word in speech, because the stem of the words ends in -r (bitter, sour), and so does the suffix (-er), which can make it harder to hear the suffix distinctly.


    Senior Member
    Thank you for the reply, Gavril. :)

    Anyone else? Is the comparative of sour transitioning from sourer to more sour?


    Senior Member
    English - England
    I would probably say sourer and bitterer in most cases.

    Judging by this ngram, I'm in the minority, there is no transition in recent years.

    Google ngram: sourer,more sour,bitterer,more bitter

    The graph shows that the order of usage from higher to lower is more bitter, bitterer, more sour, sourer.
    More bitter is approximately 8 times more frequent than bitterer. More sour and sourer are quite close.
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    Interesting. Despite the WR dictionary indicating sourer as the comparative, in reality more sour is used (slightly) more. :)


    Senior Member
    English - England
    The Google Ngram (view HERE) for English as a whole, shows
    1. more bitter is about four times more popular than bitterer. More bitter has always been significantly more popular than bitterer.
    2. more sour is slightly more popular than sourer, but not by much.
    3. There is no sign of a transition from sourer to more sour: that happened around the early 1980s when sourer lost its dominance, since then the difference in frequency of use has been more or less constant.

    The guidance then must be:

    1. Use "more bitter" only.
    2. The choice between sour and more sour is yours.

    (Cross post with biffo)


    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Perhaps we have a bit of an AE/BE difference here. I agree with Gavril. I don't say, and I don't think I've ever heard an American say, "sourer" or "bitterer". In my experience, it's always "more sour" or "more bitter".
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