Adjectives - Comparative and Superlative Forms

Overview: 

A meaning-based definition for 'adjective' (just as for nouns and verbs) can be problematic. This lesson examines one feature of adjectives, their ability to take comparative and superlative forms, and then to use that as a tool to identify adjectives.

This lesson should be done in conjunction with the other lessons on adjectives.

Grade Level: 
Grades 3-5
Grades 6-8
Grades 9-12
Class Time Needed: 
Under 30 minutes
Lesson Plan: 

Calling an adjective simply a describing word can mislead since nouns can also describe (linguistics book), as can verbs (She is diving.), so it is the morphological and syntactic information that is more reliable and less subjective when identifying adjectives.

Most adjectives take comparative and superlative morphology: -er/-est or the words 'more' and 'most'. (For more on what it is that determines which a word can take, see the attached document.)

So now we have a handy test for adjectives.

Test for Adjectives: Does the word have a comparative and superlative form?

small smaller, smallest
curious more curious, most curious
ugly uglier, ugliest
difficult more difficult, most difficult

Now, some adjectives cannot be compared since they are not gradable, so it might be weird to say
This chair is more wooden than that one.
He is more married than she is.
Sometimes, however, we use these forms in context and they do make sense. If someone said that one chair is more wooden than another, what might that mean?

The attached chart allows students to fill in the blanks for the comparative and superlative forms of adjectives. They may find that some words have more than one possibility - a great opportunity for discussion and analysis.