Lesson 20 – Comparison of adjectives and adverbs

Adjectives

Comparative

When we compare two things in English we often use the comparative form of an adjective. To do this we add ‘-er’ to the end of the adjective or precede it with ‘more’

For example:

Adjective Comparative
beautiful more beautiful
pretty prettier

To form the comparative of most Latin adjectives we use the ending ‘-ior’ for the masculine and feminine forms and the ending ‘-ius’ for the neuter form.

For example:

The comparative for pulcher, pulchra, pulchrum ‘beautiful’ is pulchrior (masculine), pulchrior (feminine) and pulchrius (neuter) ‘more beautiful’.

Handy hint

Apart from the nominative singular ending of ‘-ior’ or ‘-ius’, these forms decline like third declension nouns.

Superlative

When we compare more than two things in English we often use the superlative form of an adjective. To do this we add ‘-est’ to the end of the adjective or precede it with ‘most’.

Adjective Superlative
beautiful the most beautiful
pretty prettiest

To form the superlative of most Latin adjectives we use the ending ‘-imus’ for the masculine form,
‘-ima’ for the feminine form, and ‘-imum’ for the neuter form. The formation of the central stem of the superlative depends on the type of adjective.

For example:

The superlative for pulcher, pulchra, pulchrum ‘beautiful’ is pulcherrimus (masculine), pulcherrima (feminine), pulcherrimum (neuter) ‘the most beautiful’. These forms decline like ‘bonus, -a, -um’.

When it comes to translating Latin comparatives and superlatives, be aware that their meanings are more flexible than those in English and can be expressed in a variety of different ways.

For example:

Adjective Meaning
longus, longa, longum long
miser, misera, miserum wretched
durus, dura, durum hard
Comparative Meaning
longior, longior, longius longer (rather long, too long, quite long)
miserior, miserior, miserius more wretched (rather wretched, too wretched, quite wretched)
durior, durior, durius harder (rather hard, too hard, quite hard)
Superlative Meaning
longissimus, longissima, longissimum the longest (very long)
miserrimus, miserrima, miserrimum the most wretched (very wretched)
durissimus, durissima, durissimum the hardest (very hard)

Irregular adjectives

Some adjectives are irregular in the way they form their comparative and superlative forms, for example:

Adjective Comparative Superlative Meaning
bonus-a-um melior-ior-ius optimus-ima-imum good, better, the best
magnus-a-um maior-ior-ius maximus-ima-imum great, greater, the greatest
malus-a-um peior-ior-ius pessimus-ima-imum bad, worse, the worst
parvus-a-um minor-us minimus-ima-imum small, smaller, the smallest
multus-a-um plus plurimus-ima-imum much, more, the most

Handy hint

The comparative forms of most adjectives that end in a vowel plus ‘-us’, such as ‘idoneus, a, -um’ ‘suitable’, are made by adding the word ‘magis’ to the adjective in question to form the comparative and the word ‘maxime’ to form the superlative.

For example:

Adjective Comparative Superlative
idoneus   suitable magis idoneus   more suitable maxime idoneus   most suitable

Adverbs

Comparatives

When we compare the way in which two things are carried out in English we often use the comparative form of an adverb. To do this we most commonly precede the adverb with ‘more’.

For example:

Adverb Comparative
beautifully more beautifully

To form the comparative of most Latin adverbs, we use the accusative singular neuter of the comparative adjective and so the ending is often ‘-ius’.

For example:

Adjective Comparative adjective Adverb Comparative adverb
pulcher Masculine/Feminine
Nom.
pulchrior
Acc.pulchriorem
Neuter
pulchrius
pulchrius
pulchre pulchrius

Superlatives

When we compare the way in which more than two things are carried out in English we often use the superlative form of an adverb. To do this we precede it with ‘most’.

For example:

Adverb Superlative
beautifully most beautifully

To form the superlative of most Latin adverbs we replace the ‘-us’ ending of the superlative adjective with ‘-e’, so that the endings are most commonly ‘-issime’, ‘-errime’, ‘-illime’ .

For example:

Superlative adjective Superlative adverb
pulcherrimus pulcherrime

Just as with adjectives, when it comes to translating Latin comparative and superlative adverbs, be aware that they are more flexible than those in English and can be expressed in a variety of different ways.

For example:

Adverb Meaning
facile easily
pulchre beautifully
tuto safely
Comparative adverb Meaning
facilius more easily, rather easily, too easily
pulchrius more beautifully, rather beautifully, too beautifully
tutius more safely, rather safely, too safely
Superlative adverb Meaning
facillime most easily, very easily, in an extremely easy way
pulcherrime most beautifully, very beautifully, in an extremely beautiful way
tutissime most safely, very safely, in an extremely safe way

Handy hint

‘Quam’

When ‘quam’ is used with a comparative adjective or adverb, it means ‘than’.

For example:
hoc messuagium fuit maius quam illud – English
This messuage was larger than that one

When ‘quam’ is used with a superlative adjective or adverb, it means ‘as …as possible ’.

For example:

Latin English
quam maximus as great as possible
quam largissimus as large as possible
quam maxime as greatly as possible
quam largissime as largely as possible

Irregular adverbs

If an adjective is irregular, then it is often the case that the corresponding adverb will be irregular too. Compare these to the irregular adjectives we have already looked at in this lesson.

for example:

Adverbs Meaning
paulum a little
multum much
Comparative Meaning
minus less
plus more
Superlative Meaning
minime least
plurimum most

Adverbs which are not linked to corresponding adjectives can also be irregular but you are not likely to come across these.

Checklist

Are you confident with

  • the meaning of comparative and superlative adjectives?
  • the form of comparative and superlative adjectives?
  • the meaning of comparative and superlative adverbs?
  • the form of comparative and superlative adverbs?

What next?