View Full Version : "Er" and "est" and when to use "more" and "most"?

01-12-2007, 08:13 PM
When to use? I remember in grade school, my English teacher told me "you'd use 'er' or 'est' for adjectives with fewer than three syllables. Everything else should use 'more' or 'most'."

But that rule doesn't really hold true. I wouldn't say "this story is vivider and aliver than the other." Instead, it should be "this story is more vivid and alive than the other." However, we do write "crazier" instead of "more crazy."

So is there a rule? Or is it on a word-by-word basis?

01-12-2007, 08:31 PM
There's not so much a rule, as a list of exceptions, really.

Ol' Fashioned Girl
01-12-2007, 08:33 PM
I vaguely remember: if there's two of something, it's 'er'. If three or more, it's 'est'.

As in, "Of my three suitors, Bill is the handsomest." As opposed to, "Of the two of them, Ron's the uglier."


01-12-2007, 09:39 PM
Hi Maestro, unless Im mistaken (highly possible) 2 syllable adjectives (not ending in -y) are more/most, regular 1 syllable adjectives -er/est.

As ever, I stand to be corrected.

01-12-2007, 10:24 PM
Ah English. Language of few rules and many exceptions. Fewest rules, most exceptions, perhaps. If a superlative exists, you must use it. If it doesn't, use most <blank>. The superlative for each word is in the dictionary. When in doubt look it up. At least, that's the way I do it.

I like Jim best. He's the funniest and most handsome man I know.

01-12-2007, 10:32 PM
Hi Maestro, unless Im mistaken (highly possible) 2 syllable adjectives (not ending in -y) are more/most, regular 1 syllable adjectives -er/est.

Maybe, but I remember otherwise. I remember her saying, "two syllables, such as handsome or simple -- handsomest and simplest." So it could be what Medievalist said: it's a matter of exceptions.

p.s. it's handsomer and handsomest, CaroGirl :)

English is so confusing. In my native language, you don't have this kind of nonsense. :) No tense, no possessives, no superlatives, no plurals. Life is simple.

01-12-2007, 10:49 PM
p.s. it's handsomer and handsomest, CaroGirl :)

i hate this stoopid language

01-12-2007, 11:05 PM
It is the stoopidest thang.

01-13-2007, 01:07 AM
Newmod's explanation is the way I was taught also. But these rules are frequently broken, so a dictionary is your best friend in case of confusion.

A lot of the trouble arises from the fact that English is a hybrid of Germanic languages and French, which are phonetically and grammatically drastically different from each other. That's why there are two methods of former comparatives, inconsistent rules for pronouncing 'g' (get, giant) and so on. The two languages are still slugging it out... On the upside, it is a wonderfully rich and expressive language with the broadest vocabulary of any language, with all the possibilities of shades of meaning that entails. Ya win some and ya lose some.

01-13-2007, 01:28 AM
I still recall the two minutes my high school Latin teacher talked about learning English after someone said "this Latin is hard." (I forget his birth language but of course it wasn't Latin nor English). He demonstrated with the singular and plural forms of simple, elementary-school nouns:

horse horses

house houses

mouse mice

But the DJ said "I am The Mostest With The Bestest." He was on the radio (the equivalent of the Internet when I was growing up) so he must have been right.:)

01-13-2007, 10:52 PM
The 1989 edition of The St. Martin's Handbook confirms what Ray was taught. It says:

In addition to their simple or positive form, many adjectives and adverbs have two other forms, the comparative and superlative, that are used for making comparisons.

Positive ---> Comparative ---> Superlative
large larger largest
early earlier earliest
careful more careful most careful
happily more happily most happily

[more examples in sentences]

As these examples suggest, the comparative and superlative of most short (one-syllable and some two-syllable) adjectives are usually formed by adding the endings -er and -est. More and Most are also used with short adjectives, however, and can sometimes create a more formal tone. The only ways to form the comparative and superlative of longer adjectives--three syllables or more--and of most adverbs is with more and most. If you are not sure whether an adjective or adverb has -er and -est forms, consult the dictionary entry for the simple form, where the -er and -est forms are usually listed if they exist.


Maryn, who has all but forgotten touch typing from other text