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Comparative Adverbs

The EnglishClub Guide to Plural Only Nouns

One of the jobs of an adverb is to modify a verb action, for example:

  • Joe ran fast.

If we want to compare one verb action with another, we can use a comparative adverb, for example:

  • Joe ran fast, but Mary came first because she ran faster.
We use comparative adverbs when talking about two actions (not three or more actions). Comparison is always between TWO things.

How do we Make Comparative Adverbs?

There are three basic ways to make or "form" a comparative adverb:

1. One-syllable adverbs: add -er

If an adverb has only one syllable, we usually just add -er to make it comparative: fast → faster. Here are some examples:

adverb comparative adverb
fast faster
hard harder
high higher
late later
long longer
low lower
wide wider

Note that most one-syllable adverbs have the same form as their equivalent adjectives. Don't let this confuse you. For example:

  positive comparative
adjective a fast car a faster car
adverb he drives fast he drives faster

2. Two-syllable adverbs: use more

When an adverb has two or more syllables (like all -ly adverbs), we can make it comparative by adding more in front: quickly → more quickly. Look at these examples:

adverb comparative adverb
carefully more carefully
efficiently more efficiently
happily more happily
horribly more horribly
often more often
quickly more quickly
recently more recently
slowly more slowly
sadly more sadly
strangely more strangely

We can also use less in place of more to suggest a reduction in the action. Look at these examples:

sentence for example
She visits often. once a week
Now she visits more often. ↑ once a day
Now she visits less often. ↓ once a month

3. Irregular Adverbs

A few adverbs have irregular form, for example:

adverb comparative adverb
badly worse
early earlier
far further/farther
little less
much more
well better

Comparative Adverbs with Informal Forms

Note that a few adverbs have a formal ("correct") form with -ly and an informal form without -ly. The same is then true of their comparative forms. Although you may hear some native speakers using the informal form in speech, it is best avoided in formal situations and examinations. The most common examples are:

adverb comparative adverb
cheap/cheaply cheaper/more cheaply
loud/loudly louder/more loudly
quick/quickly quicker/more quickly
slow/slowly slower/more slowly
Note that a few adverbs have NO comparative form, for example:
again, first
daily, yesterday
here, there
now, then
never, sometimes

How do we Use Comparative Adverbs?

Now that you know how to make comparative adverbs, let's see how to use them. Look at these examples. Notice that we may use more to suggest an increase in the action and less to suggest a decrease in the action. Notice also that the comparative adverb is often followed by than:

  • Trains go fast but planes go faster.
  • Planes go faster than trains.
  • Trains don't go faster than planes.
  • Trains go more slowly than planes.
  • Planes go less slowly than trains.
  • Joe won because he played better than Jane played.
  • Joe won because he played better than Jane.
  • Joe won because he played better.
  • Did cities grow more quickly after the Industrial Revolution?
  • He hit the ball more powerfully than his competitor.
  • As we get older we remember things less easily.
  • Could you talk a bit more quietly please?
  • Could you talk a bit less loudly please?
  • I can't hear you. Please speak louder/more loudly.
Although we use comparative adverbs when talking about two actions, in fact one or both of the actions may be a group of actions.
  • The planet Mercury revolves around the sun faster than all the other planets.
Here, we are talking about eight planets, but we are still comparing one action (Mercury's) to one other action (that of all the other planets).

Mini Quiz

Comparative Adverbs

1. If you don't study _______, you will fail your exam.

harder
hardly
more hard
a) harder b) hardly c) more hard

2. After the accident he drives _______ now.

less carefully
more carefully
carefully than
a) less carefully b) more cerfully c) carefully than

3. She speaks _______ before.

better
better than
more well than
a) better b) better than c) more well than

4. Mary can run _______ Jane.

faster
faster than
slower than
a) faster b) faster than c) slower than

Your score is:

Correct answers:

Other Comparative Adverb Resources:

Contributor: Josef Essberger