Comparatives and Superlatives
Comparisons of equality
By comparisons of equality, we mean what we express with the structure “as...as” in English. For instance “She is as beautiful as her sister”.
Such comparisons are made using the structure “so + wie” in German. For example;
Ich bin so intelligent wie du (I’m as intelligent as you)
Sie ist so gut wie deine Schwester (she’s as good as her sister)
Note that after wie nominative case is used.
Note also that “so” precedes the adjective or the adverb.
Comparison of inequality
One way to express inequality, you can use the structure so + wie again and add “nicht” in front of “so”:
Ich bin nicht so intelligent wie du (I’m as intelligent as you)
Sie ist nicht so gut wie deine Schwester (she’s not as good as her sister)
How to form the adjectives
To express inequalities, you need to know first how to modify the adjectives, e.g. in English you would say “more intelligent” to make a comparison. This is done in German by adding –er to the end of the adjectives. For instance:
intelligent – intelligenter (intelligent- more intelligent)
klein – kleiner (small-smaller)
schnell-schneller (fast –faster)
neu- neuer (new-newer)
For the majority of the adjectives, this rule applies. However, as in English there are irregular forms:
- Adjectives ending in -el or –er normally drop the -e- before the comparative suffix “-er”. Examples of such adjectives are
Teuer-teurer (instead of teuerer)
Dunkel-dunkler (instead of dunkeler)
- Some adjectives including a,o and u take umlaut in the comparative form. Examples of such adjectives are:
arm –ärmer (poor- poorer)
dumm-dümmer (stupid-more stupid)
More examples are given in the vocabulary section.
- Some German adjectives are completely irregular. This is also similar to some English adjectives. Recall that the comparative form of good is better and the superlative is the best; i.e comparative and superlative forms have nothing to do with the base adjective. This is also the case for some German adjectives:
bald – eher (soon- sooner)
More examples of such adjectives together with their superlative forms are given in the vocabulary section.
- Note that there are some adjectives which do not take umlaut in the comparative forms although they have a, o, u in the base adjective. Most commons are
flach, froh, klar, rasch, roh, schlank, stolz, toll, voll and zart.
Making unequal comparisons
Now that you learned how to form the comparative forms of adjectives, you can make comparison of inequality:
To make comparisons, use the word “als” which means than:
Du bist intelligenter als Ich (You are more intelligent than me)
There are two ways to form superlatives in German:
1. By adding –ste to the end of adjectives. If the adjective ends in –t, -d, -ß, -sch, -z and –s, the ending “-est” is used.
Examples: (der/die/das) kleinste (the smallest), (der/die/das) neueste (the newest)
Superlatives are almost always preceded by the definite article as in the examples.
2. Superlatives are also formed using the structure “am + adjective/adverb +sten”
am jüngsten (the youngest)
am intelligesten (the most intelligent)
am kürzesten (the shortest)
Other important expressions
- There are some structures in German which are used very often to make comparisons:
Je mehr du arbeitest, je besser werden deine Noten
Je mehr, desto besser. (The more, the better)
Je mehr Leute, desto besser.
- The word “immer” whose primary meaning is always, is used together with comparatives to express that something becomes “more” in steps.
Ich wurde immer böser. (I became more and more angry).
For comparative and superlative forms, the declension rules for adjectives are valid. So that for example, in the nominative case you should say: das teuerste Auto (the most expensive car)
Examples of adjective that have umlaut in the comparative and superlative forms
klug /klüger /am klügsten
lang/länger /am längsten
stark/stärker /am stärksten
scharf/schärfer /am schärfsten
Examples of adjectives with irregular comparative and superlatives