Unit 13: Welcome to BBC Broadcasting House
Comparatives and superlatives
Select a unit
- 1 Nice to meet you!
- 2 What to wear
- 3 Like this, like that
- 4 The daily grind
- 5 Christmas every day
- 6 Great achievers
- 7 The Titanic
- 8 Travel
- 9 The big wedding
- 10 Sunny's job hunt
- 11 The bucket list
- 12 Moving and migration
- 13 Welcome to BBC Broadcasting House
- 14 New Year, New Project
- 15 From Handel to Hendrix
- 16 What's the weather like?
- 17 The Digital Revolution
- 18 A detective story
- 19 A place to live
- 20 The Cult of Celebrity
- 21 Welcome to your new job
- 22 Beyond the planets
- 23 Great expectations!
- 24 Eco-tourism
- 25 Moving house
- 26 It must be love
- 27 Job hunting success... and failure
- 28 Speeding into the future
- 29 Lost arts
- 30 Tales of survival
Let's find out more about Broadcasting House and focus on the language used to describe the changes that have taken place there (comparative adjectives) and also some of the features that make the building unique (superlative adjectives)
Session 2 score
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More about comparatives and superlatives
Meet our presenters Rob and Sophie. Who's the tallest and who's the thinnest? These are questions to answer in 6 Minute Grammar as they try to explain more about comparatives and superlatives. Will this be the most useful 6 minutes of your life?! Let's find out…
Listen to the audio
Hello and welcome to 6 Minute Grammar with me, Rob.
And me, Sophie. Hello.
Today we're talking about comparatives and superlatives – what they are and how to use them.
Yes, we use comparatives and superlatives to compare people and things. Listen carefully because, as usual, there is a quiz at the end of the show.
OK, we'll start with some examples of the comparative. So, Sophie, can you stand up, please.
Right, look, back to back here. I'm taller than you.
But I'm thinner than you!
Good point. The sentences I'm taller than you and I'm thinner than you both use the comparative form.
We use comparatives to compare two people or things that are different in some way.
Listen again to the examples we've just used: where does the word than come?
I'm taller than you.
I'm thinner than you.
Than comes after the comparative adjective. We usually use than in comparative sentences.
But not always, for example, I can ask: Who is taller – you or me?
Now, there are different ways to make the comparative form: For short words, just add 'er'. That's spelled e – r. So tall becomes taller …
…thin becomes thinner …
Adjectives like happy, funny, easy… that end in the sound /i/ [phonemic sound 'y'], spelled with a 'y', add 'ier', spelled: i – e – r.
…so happy becomes happier…
...easy becomes easier. An example, please Neil.
English is easier than Chinese.
Not if you're Chinese, though! Now, adjectives that have two or more syllables but don't end in /i/ (spelled 'y'), use 'more'. Neil has some examples.
A tablet is more useful than a laptop.
The film of 'The Hobbit' is more exciting than the book.
'Useful' has two syllables and 'exciting' has three, so we say more useful and more exciting.
And we're talking about comparatives and superlatives. We've seen how to use and make comparatives…
Now we're going to tell you what superlatives are and how to use them. Sophie, are you good at geography?
I'll have a go.
OK. Here's a question for you: What's the longest river in the world?
Well, the Nile is a very long river, but I think that the longest river in the world is the Amazon.
And… you're right! It is the Amazon. 'The longest river' is a superlative. We use superlative forms to compare one person or thing with several others in a group. We often use them to say which thing or person is the greatest, the biggest…
…the most beautiful, the best… in some way.
To make the superlative of short words like high, deep, tall, add 'est'. That's spelled e-s-t.
So, the highest mountain, the deepest ocean, the tallest person…
And remember to put 'the' before the adjective. So it's: I'm the tallest person in my family.
Now for longer adjectives, with two or more syllables, we use most. Rob, who is the most famous actor in the world?
Well, there are many, aren't there, but I think Brad Pitt is the most famous actor in the world.
…'the most famous actor'. So it's the + most + adjective.
For adjectives that end in /i/ – spelled 'y' – like funny, and happy, we add 'iest' – that's i-e-s-t. Here's an example.
The funniest show on TV is 'The Simpsons'.
Now, finally, look out for the irregular comparatives and superlatives.
My iPhone 5 was better than my iPhone 4, but the iPhone 6 is the best phone on the market now, in my opinion.
The comparative form of good is better and the superlative form is best.
The comparative of bad is worse.
…and the superlative is worst. Listen to these examples:
Winters have been bad the last few years. 2012 was worse than 2011, but 2013 was the worst winter since records began.
Now for the quiz. I'll give you an adjective and a sentence and you have to complete the gap with a comparative or superlative.
OK. Number 1: the word is 'old'. Jenny is ten and Simon is fifteen, so Simon is ______ than Jenny.
And the answer is: older. Simon is older than Jenny.
Next word: 'beautiful'. The Taj Mahal is the ___________ building I've ever seen.
And the answer is: most beautiful. The Taj Mahal is the most beautiful building I've ever seen.
Final word: 'good'. Using BBC Learning English is the _____ way to improve your English.
Best. Using BBC Learning English is the best way to improve your English.
There's lots more about this on our website at bbclearningenglish.com. Join us again for more 6 Minute Grammar soon.
End of Session 2
That's it for Session 2. Hopefully you've got a better understanding of comparatives and superlatives and the many rules about using them. In Session 3 you're going to get your own personal guide around Broadcasting House and hear some adjectives in action. See you there!
Comparative adjectives tell us how something is different (the original smaller home of the BBC) or how something has changed (It's busier than ever).
In most cases, we add -er to the adjective to form a comparative (large-larger, fast-faster).'If the adjective finishes with a consonant-vowel-consonant pattern (like 'big'), the final consonant is doubled when -er is added (big-bigger, fat-fatter).
If the adjective ends with a consonant + y, we change the y to an i (busy-busier, funny-funnier).
We use 'than' to make a direct comparison with something else (I am taller than my brother.)
Superlative adjectives highlight something that is bigger, better or more than everything else (the largest live newsroom in Europe, the latest technology).
We add –est after the adjective. We also use 'the' before the adjective (fast-the fastest, large-the largest).
If the adjective finishes with a consonant-vowel-consonant pattern (like 'big'), the final consonant is doubled (big-the biggest, fat-the fattest).
If the adjective ends with a consonant + y, we change the y to an i (busy-the busiest, funny-the funniest).
Note - there are always irregular forms in English! This is true for comparative and superlative adjectives as well. Here are some of the common irregular forms:
adjective - comparative - superlative
good - better (than) - (the) best
well - better (than) - (the) best
bad - worse (than) - (the) worst
ill - worse (than) - (the) worst
far - further (than) - (the) furthest