Degrees of Adjectives in Research Articles

  • Many adjectives exist in several degrees (e.g., good, better, best).
  • The comparative (better) is for comparison of two things, while the superlative (best) involves the comparison of several things.
  • Using the right adjective degree can help make your comparisons more descriptive and more precise.

As a part of speech, adjectives are words that describe or modify a person, place, or thing (noun) in a sentence. Along with being descriptive, adjectives can also express degrees of modification or comparison, as in the following example:

  • The Sears Tower is a tall building, but the Empire State Building is taller, and the Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world.

Positive adjectives are those that are used to describe or modify nouns in general (i.e., when no comparison is at work). Accordingly, in the example above, the adjective ‘tall’ is only describing the Sears Tower and is thus a positive. The two degrees of adjective found later in the sentence are known as the comparative and the superlative. We use comparative adjectives for comparing two things, and we use superlative adjectives for comparing three or more things. Thus, in the example sentence, ‘taller’ is the comparative adjective because the Empire State Building is taller than the Sears Tower. However, ‘tallest’ is the superlative adjective because the Burj Khalifa is not only taller than the other two buildings, it is the tallest building in the world.

The words ‘more’ and ‘most’ can also turn an adjective into a comparative and superlative, respectively:

  • The ELISA was more sensitive than the standard colorimetric assay, but the ELISPOT was the most sensitive assay of the three.

Additional examples of degrees of adjectives are as follows (note that -er and -est are added to many adjectives to form comparatives and superlatives, but there are a few irregular sets):

Positive Comparative Superlative
Rich Richer Richest
Big Bigger Biggest
Good Better Best
Bad Worse Worst
Accurate More accurate Most accurate

Understanding how to use degrees of adjectives can help make your comparisons more descriptive and more precise. We hope that this tip has been helpful! Please email us with any questions.

Share with your colleagues

Share your work as a preprint and help move science forward

We invite you to share your research with the community by posting it online as a preprint. Our sister company, Research Square, is a trusted preprint platform that lets you get credit for your unpublished research early, increase your citations, and get feedback from the community.

Related Articles

Adjectives and Nouns

Editing Tip: Avoiding Noun String Overuse

As mentioned in another article on AJE Scholar, attributive nouns, also known as nouns serving as adjectives, are frequently used to reduce a manuscript’s word... Read More »

Adjectives and Nouns

Editing Tip: Attributive Nouns (Or, Adjective Nouns)

Attributive nouns are nouns serving as an adjective. Here's a bit more about how to use them Read More »

Stay up to date

Sign up for early access to AJE Scholar articles, discounts on AJE services, and more