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):
|Accurate||More accurate||Most accurate|