Adjective Comparison

The comparative form of an adjective takes the ending -er.
The superlative form takes the ending -st. In most cases the word am (or a definite article) precedes the adjective and a further ending is added:

schön – schöner – am schönsten (der/die/das schönste)
(beautiful – more beautiful – most beautiful)

The superlative form takes the ending -est (containing an additional e) if the adjective has all of the following characteristics:

  • the adjective ends in d, t, s, ß, x, z or sch
  • the adjective consists of only one syllable
  • the last syllable is stressed

for example:

weit – weiter – am weitesten (far – farther – farthest)
wild – wilder – am wildesten  (wild – wilder – wildest)
heiß – heißer – am heißesten  (hot – hotter – hottest)
kurz – kürzer – am kürzesten  (short – shorter – shortest)

interessant – interessanter – am interessantesten  (interesting – more interesting – most interesting)

but: reizend – reizender – am reizendsten  (pretty – prettier – prettiest)

an exception: groß – größer – am größten  (big – bigger – biggest)

Some adjectives, mostly those with one syllable take an Umlaut (stem-change):

dumm – dümmer – am dümmsten  (silly – sillier – silliest)
kalt – kälter – am kältesten  (cold – colder – coldest)
warm – wärmer – am wärmsten  (warm – warmer – warmest)
jung – jünger – am jüngsten  (young – younger – youngest)
klug – klüger – am klügsten  (clever – cleverer – cleverest)
kurz – kürzer – am kürzesten  (short – shorter – shortest)

in the same way: arg, alt, arm, hart, krank, lang, nah, scharf, schwach, schwarz, stark, grob, groß, hoch.

 Some adjectives can be used with or without an Umlaut:

gesund – gesunder – am gesundesten
gesund – gesünder – am gesündesten  (healthy – healthier – healthiest)

With or without an Umlaut: bang, blaß, glatt, karg, naß, schmal, fromm, krumm, rot

Adjectives that never take an Umlaut:

– Adjectives with au (e.g. blau – blauer)
– Adjectives with the suffix -bar, -e, -el, -er, -en, -haft, -ig, -lich. (e.g.: wunderbar – wunderbarer; dunkel – dunkler; trocken – trockener; hungrig – hungriger)
– Adjectives of foreign origin: interessant – interessanter; altmodisch – altmodischer
– Participles: present participle (Partizip Präsens), past participle (Partizip Perfekt) (e.g. Deutschtland ist das besuchteste Land – Germany is the most visited country.)

Adjectives ending in -e, or -el lose the e. Also -er and -en endings may lose the e:

müde – müder – müdest (tired)
dunkel – dunkler – dunklest (dark)
teuer – teu(e)rer – teuerst (expensive)
trocken – trock(e)ner – trockenst (dry)

Irregular adjectives:

hoch – höher – höchst-  (high)
nahe – näher – nächst-  (near, close)
gern – lieber – liebst-  (with pleasure; gladly, willingly)
gut – besser – best-  (good)
viel – mehr – meist-   (much, many, a lot of)
wenig – minder – mindest- (or: wenig – weniger – wenigst-)  (few, little)
groß – größer – größt (the superlative is irregular)

Attention! The last consonant is never doubled (compare: English: big – bigger – biggest, but German: schmal – schmäler – schmälst-).

There are some adjectives which have no comparative or superlative forms, such as tot (dead), lebend (alive). The same applies to most of the participles: geschrieben (written), gelesen (read), gegessen (eaten).

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Some adjectives have no comparative form but do have a superlative:

der/die/das obere (upper) – der/die/das oberste (uppermost)
der/die/das untere (lower) – der/die/das unterste (lowest, lowermost, undermost)
der/die/das äußere (outside) – der/die/das äußerste (utmost)
der/die/das innere (inner) – der/die/das innerste (innermost)
der/die/das hintere (rear, back) – der/die/das hinterste (rearmost, backmost)
der/die/das vondere (front) – der/die/das vonderste (foremost)

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The comparative and superlative forms of adjectives can be an attribute. In this case they behave in the same way as any other kind of adjectives so they have to be declined:

das neue Haus – das neuere Haus – das neueste Haus
ein neues Haus – ein neueres Haus

das große Problem – das größere Problem – das größte Problem
ein großes Problem – ein größeres Problem

The superlative forms of adjectives can also be part of the predicate. In this case they appear either with the definite article (and weak declension of the adjective) or with am and the ending -en:

Dieses Haus ist das schönste.
Dieses Haus ist am schönsten.
(This house is the most beautiful.)

Comparative structures:

in the basic form: (eben)so … wie… (English: as … as …)
in the comparative form: als (than)

Dieses Haus ist so hoch wie das andere – This house is as high as the other.
Dein Haus ist höher als meines – Your house is higher than mine.

In the superlative grade we often use in or unter (“among”) to express comparison relating to a group:

Johann ist der klügste in der Klasse. (Johann is the most clever in the class.)
Dieses Haus ist das schönste in der Welt. (This house is the most beautiful in the world.)
Asien ist der größte unter den Erdteilen. (Asia is the largest among the continents.)

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Adverbs can be compared in the same way as adjectives.

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