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What Is a Degree of Comparison?

By Meghan Perry
Updated May 23, 2024
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A degree of comparison is a way to compare a person or thing either to one other person or thing or to a group of people or things. There are three different forms of a degree of comparison. The positive form is the basic, simplest form; the comparative form is when two people or things are compared; and the superlative form is when three or more people or things are compared. Degrees of comparison are only used with adverbs and adjectives.

The positive form is the most basic degree of comparison. It is generally used when describing one person. An example of this would be "John is thin." It describes a quality about John but is not comparing him to any person or group specifically. The positive form can also be used when comparing two or even three or more people or things.

The comparative form is used when two people or things are compared, and it is a higher degree of comparison than the positive form. An example of this would be "John is thinner than Mark," with John and Mark as the two people being compared. In the comparative form, the adjective is often formed by adding -er to the end of it, as in “thinner.” Another option would be to use the word more in front of the word, as in "John is more thin than Mark." Than is often used as a conjunction when using the comparative degree of comparison.

The final form of the degree of comparison is the superlative. This is generally used when comparing a person or thing to a group of people. "John is the thinnest boy in his class" would be an example of the superlative degree of comparison. The superlative is often formed by adding either -est to the end of the word or using the word most, as in "John is the most thin boy in his class." Another general rule when using the superlative form is that the article the often comes before the adjective.

There are also degrees within the positive, comparative, and superlative forms. In the positive form, there is a degree of equality; for example, one could say "John is as thin as Mark." This sentence compares the two boys, but the comparison is equal. On the other hand, there is also a degree of inequality in the positive form. An example of this would be "Mark is not as thin as John," which also compares the two boys, but the comparison is not equal.

Different degrees are also found in the comparative form. One of these is the parallel degree, which generally happens when there are two adjectives in the sentence, for example. As one changes, the other changes as well. The progressive degree is another degree found within the comparative form, and it shows a progression over time. For example, "As the weeks went by, John got thinner and thinner."

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