Most adjectives and many adverbs have three forms to denote different degrees of comparison — as, large, larger, largest; soon, sooner, soonest.
The first form, which does not really suggest comparison at all, is commonly called the positive degree; the second, the comparative degree; and the third, the superlative degree. The comparative degree should be used in comparing two things or sets of things — thus:
1. A government bond is safer than a corporation bond.
2. Our prices are lower than yours. The superlative degree should be used in comparing three or more things — thus:
1. Liberty bonds are the safest investment in the world.
2. Lumber reached its highest price in 1920. In spite of the foregoing rules, good writers sometimes use the superlative when only two things are compared.
For example, you will find such sentences as ” Henry is the tallest of the two.” Hall says that the comparative degree is on the road to extinction except before than. Lounsbury, Carpenter, and Baskerville and Se well defend the use of the superlative in comparing two things, while Hill, Genung, and Herrick and Damon favor a rigid appHcation of the foregoing rules.
Though the rule is often disregarded by good writers, it is better to use the comparative when two things or sets of things are compared. Many adjectives and adverbs are compared by the use of more and most, or less and least as the case may require — as, beautiful, more beautiful, most beautiful. This method is used when the addition of er or est would not be pleasing in sound.
1 Carpenter says that the ear alone should decide which ought to be used.
Some of the most noted writers of prose, however, have violated this rule. Thackeray used handsomest, immensest, and wonderful est, and Ruskin patientest, and sorrowful est. You will find, however, that most modern writers use more and most whenever it will prevent a series of harsh or unpleasant sounds.
Most handsome, most immense, most wonderful, most patient, and most sorrowful are the better forms. Adverbs ending in are compared by the use of more and most—as, slowly, more slowly, most slowly.
Most adjectives in —such as lowly, friendly, lovely, and manly —form the comparative and superlative by the addition of er and est. The following words do not admit of comparison : double, square, round, horizontal, perpendicular, perfect, ideal, and infallible. If an object is square or round, it is inaccurate to say that it could be more square or round.
You should say more nearly square, more nearly round, more nearly perfect, etc. Many errors consist in the use of double comparison. You have no doubt heard the following expressions : worser, lesser, etc. Of course, the correct forms are worse and less. The double forms furthermore, furthermost, and uttermost, however, are approved.
The expressions more preferable, more superior, and most favorite involve double comparison, and hence should be avoided. * Baskerville and Sewell: School Grammar, page 87. * Carpenter: Principles of English Grammar, page 103. Some adjectives are compared irregularly.
The following forms should be carefully learned: Positive bad, or ill good, or well far late little many, or much near old Comparative worse better farther (distance) further (additional) later latter less more nearer older elder Superlative worst best farthest furthest latest last least most nearest, or next oldest eldest Latter and former are now generally used in speaking of two things, the latter being the one mentioned second and the former the one mentioned first. You should, however, these forms only when necessary, as it is easy to acquire the habit of overworking them.
So-called mixed comparisons should generally be avoided. For example, it is incorrect to say, ” Mr. Jones is as good a salesman if not better than Mr. Brown.” Certainly no careful writer would say, ” Mr. Jones is as good a salesman than Mr. Brown.” Say, ” Mr. Jones is as good a salesman as Mr. Brown, if not better.” It is also an error to say, ” John Wanamaker is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, merchant this country has produced.” You should say, ” John Wanamaker is one of the greatest merchants this country has produced, if not the greatest.”
The mixed comparison is thus avoided by the transposition of the phrases or clauses. When one thing or one group of things is compared with another of the same sort, they must be clearly separated in meaning.
This can be done whenever necessary by adding the word other— thus:
1. Amber-colored goggles will protect your eyes from the sun better than any other glasses.
2. Miss Young is more accurate than any other person in the auditing department. Since amber-colored goggles are a kind of glasses, it is necessary to add the word other. There is a great deal of uncertainty about the correct use of as — as and so — as. Good usage favors the use of as — as in equal comparisons and so — as in unequal comparisons.1 Note the following sentences:
1. Shaw-Walker’s trade is as large as ours.
2. Shaw-Walker’s trade is not so large as ours. Notice that unequal comparisons are made by the addition of a negative. You may, therefore, find it easy to remember that so — as should be used in preference to as — as in sentences where a negative occurs.
Read these sentences carefully until you can use the correct expression without difficulty:
1. Mr. Stone is not so careful as his partner in selecting his investments.
2. The supply of raw cotton is scarcely so great as that of 1920.
3. No one else is so well known to business men as Mr. Schwab.
4. We have not received so many orders during the present month as we did last year. 5. Neither of the applicants was so well prepared for the work as Mr. Taylor.