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Base form Comparative Superlative

Big bigger biggest (inflectional)

comfortable more comfortable most comfortable (analytic)


Inflected forms are used with:

• Short adjectives of one syllable, and two-syllable adjectives ending in –y (hot–hotter–hottest; easy–easier–easiest). Exceptions are right, wrong and real.

• Disyllabic adjectives in -ow (narrow, shallow, hollow, mellow) can be inflected, as can other short adjectives ending in weak syllables such as -le (simple, able, noble).

Analytic forms are used with:

• adjectives of more than two syllables (e.g. encouraging); and

• adjectives which are already inflected (e.g. lovable, famous, greenish, pleased).

The following adjectives have suppletive forms for grades 1 and 2:

good, better, best far, farther, farthest

bad, worse, worst far, further, furthest

The word further can also be used with the sense of ‘other’, ‘later’, ‘additional’:

There will be a further meeting next week.

The theatre is closed until further notice.

The adjectives elder, eldest (alternative to older, oldest) refer only to persons.

my elder son; our eldest daughter; an elder brother or sister;

John is the elder of the two. I was the second eldest.



The adverb is usually defined as a word expressing either property of an action, or property of another property, or circumstances in which an action occurs.

AdvGs have certain general characteristics similar to those of AdjGs:

• Potentially three structural forms: a head, a modifier, and a post-head element, which may be a post-modifier or a complement.

• They are frequently represented by the head element alone.

• Morphologically, the adverbial head may be simple, derived or compound.

• Semantically, many adverbs express qualities of processes and situations, just as adjectives express qualities of people and things.

• Not all adjectives and adverbs have the potential of heading a group structure: e.g. mere, merely; sole, solely.

In other respects, AdvGs are different from AdjGs:

Adverbs are a more heterogeneous word class, and can be roughly grouped into three main semantic sets:

• circumstantial: place, time, manner

• degree or focus

• connective: addition, reinforcement, result, concession, and the like

Many adverbs fulfil several functions, however, and their meanings may change according to the function.


Simple forms

These are words of one or two syllables, usually of native origin, that are not compounded and do not have derivational affixes. Examples: now, then, here, there, far, near,soon, as, such, pretty, quite, rather, else, well, even, ever, ago.

Many adverbial forms also function as prepositions.

However, prepositions are best contrasted with adverbial particles: up, down, in, out,on, off, over, away, back, and so on. These are a sub-set of short forms with meanings of direction and ‘path’, among others, which are used with verbs to form phrasal verbs: walk down the street – walk down; get off the bus – get off . Adverbs are also used to form complex prepositions, such as far from, as well as, instead of.

Certain simple adverbs have the same form as the corresponding adjective:

A hard worker – he works hard a fast car – she drives fast

An early arrival – we arrived early a late performance – we left late

Derived forms

• Those formed from adjectives by the addition of the suffix -ly include: badly, happily,fairly, freely, slowly, proudly, honestly, cheerfully, sadly, warmly.

• Some adjectives already have the -ly suffix (friendly, princely, daily, weekly, monthly,etc.), and this form is also that of the adverb. That is to say, another -ly suffix is not added: we don’t say *monthlily.

• Some adjective–adverb pairs have quite unrelated meanings: hard–hardly; bare–barely; scarce–scarcely; present–presently; late–lately; short–shortly.

• A few adverbs in -ly are not derived from adjectives: accordingly, namely, jokingly, among others.

• Certain very common adjectives expressing very basic meanings don’t lend themselves to adverb formation: big, small, young, old, tall, tiny, fat, among others.

• Those formed from nouns, by the addition of -wise, -ways, -ward(s), include: clockwise, moneywise; sideways, lengthways; backward(s), forward(s).

• A small group of adverbs beginning a- indicate mainly position or direction: about, above, across, again, ahead, along, aloud, apart, around, aside, away.

• Another small set of adverbs has be- as first syllable, also indicating position or direction: before, behind, below, beneath, besides, between, beyond. These can also function as prepositions: I’ve been here before (adv.); It was before the war (prep.).

Compound forms

There are two types:

• shortened forms of what were originally PPs: downhill, indoors, inside, outside, downstairs, overhead, overall, overnight, and others.

• combinations with other classes of word: somewhere, anywhere, nowhere, everywhere; however, moreover, nevertheless; anyway, anyhow.

Phrasal adverbs are those which do not form compounds, but consist of more than one word: of course; at all; kind of, sort of; in fact; as well.

A representative number of adverbs appear in the following passage adapted from Joyce Cary’s novel The Horse’s Mouth, which tells how he finds his studio on his release from prison:

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