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What Is an Irregular Adjective?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 23, 2024
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An irregular adjective is a word that describes or modifies a noun or pronoun, but does not have a simple comparative or superlative form. Adjectives in general are words like “fast” or “short” that describe a noun or pronoun. These may be illustrated in phrases like “short table” or “fast dog.” These simple adjectives can typically use a suffix of “-er” to indicate comparative form, or “-est” for the superlative form. An irregular adjective does not simply use one of these suffixes, however, and instead completely changes such as the word “good” and the comparative form of “better” and superlative “best.”

In basic use, an adjective is a word that describes a noun or pronoun, providing additional information about it. A simple adjective like “tall,” can be used with a noun like “man” to create “tall man,” which describes the noun by indicating its relative height. The major difference between a simple and irregular adjective is the way in which they can change form to indicate a comparative or superlative modifier.

There are two common forms used with adjectives to compare different nouns or pronouns, which express greater meaning without additional or unnecessary language. The comparative form is used to directly compare two or more items and indicate that one of them has more of the quality described by the adjective. This is typically achieved through the addition of the suffix “-er” to a simple adjective, though the word “more” can sometimes be used. The word “tall” can become comparative to indicate the “taller man,” or the word “fast” can similarly refer to a “faster cat” in comparison to another.

Simple adjectives can also assume the superlative form, which indicates that the noun it describes has the greatest possible amount of the quality it describes. This form is often created through the addition of the suffix “-est” and can sometimes include the word “most.” If someone is “the tallest man,” then he is the most “tall” man of others he is being compared to; the “fastest cat” is faster than any other cat.

An irregular adjective is simply one that cannot assume the comparative or superlative form simply by adding this suffix, and instead uses different terms. The word “good,” for example, is irregular since the comparative form is “better” and the superlative form is “best.” While these forms still have endings similar to the suffixes used for regular adjectives, the change of the root word indicates irregularity.

Other words like “bad,” “many,” and “little” are also examples of an irregular adjective. The word “bad” has a comparative form of “worse” and a superlative form of “worst,” which are often confused by some writers. “Many” has “more” as a comparative and “most” as the superlative, while the word “little” is an irregular adjective with “less” and “least” as its respective forms.

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