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Degrees of the Adjectives in Italian: comparative and superlative

Adjectives have different degrees: positive, comparative (majority, equality, minority) and superlative (absolute and relative). This lesson will clarify, once and for all, the difference between the different degrees of the adjective, what they are needed for and how to use them!


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Comparative and Superlative in Italian

For DEGREE of an adjective we mean the intensity of the quality it conveys. In Italian, there are 3 degrees of an adjective:

  • POSITIVE, which indicates only a quality, in a neutral way (Il fiore è rosso The flower is red)
  • COMPARATIVE, which expresses a comparison between two terms with respect to a specific quality (Il fiore rosso è più bello del fiore giallo The red flower is more beautiful than the yellow one) oppure tra due qualità di uno stesso termine (Il fiore è più bello che profumato → The flower is more beautiful than scented).
  • SUPERLATIVE, which expresses a quality at the highest level. (ll fiore rosso è bellissimo → The flower is very beautiful / Il fiore giallo è molto profumato → The flower is very scented).

For further information on the adjectives of positive degree, have a look at our previous lesson!

 

As for the comparative, it expresses a comparison between two entities (nouns), called “first term of comparison” and “second term of comparison”, with respect to a quality. There are 3 different kinds of comparative:

Comparative of majority

In the comparative of majority, the quality has higher intensity in the first term of comparison. It is formed in this way:

Before the adjective Before the 2nd term of comparison Example

più

di

Paolo è più alto di Marco.

(Paolo is taller than Marco)

 

Comparative of equality

In the comparative of equality, the quality has the same intensity in both the first and the second term of comparison. It is formed in this way:

Before the adjective Before the 2nd term of comparison Examples

così  /  tanto

(optional)

come  /  quanto

(necessary)

Paolo è alto quanto Marco.

Paolo è così alto come Marco.

(Paolo is as tall as Marco)

 

Comparative of minority

In the comparative of minority, the quality has lower intensity in the first term of comparison. It is formed in this way:

Before the adjective Before the 2nd term of comparison Example

meno

di

Paolo è meno alto di Marco.

(Paolo is less tall than Marco)

BE CAREFUL! If the comparison of majority or minority is not between two nouns (or between a noun and a pronoun) but between two adjectives, two verbs or two adverbs, then the second term of comparison is not introduced by “di”, on the contrary, it is introduced by “che“. 

For example:

Il fiore è più bello che profumato (The flower is more beautiful than scented→ comparison between 2 adjectives

Lavorare è meno divertente che giocare (To work is less funny than to play) → comparison between 2 verbs

Leggo più tranquillamente che velocemente (I read more quietly than quickly) → comparison between 2 adverbs

 

As for the superlative, it expresses a quality at a maximum level and there are 2 kinds.

Superlative absolute

In the superlative absolute, the quality is at the highest possible degree, without any comparison.

How it is formed Examples
1) With the suffix -issimo/a/i/e

2) By putting molto, assai, decisamente, estremamente… before

3) With prefixes like arci-, super-, iper-, ultra-

4) By repeating twice the positive adjective

1)Il fiore è bellissimo

2)Il fiore è molto bello

3)Il fiore è superbello

4)Il fiore è bello bello

(The flower is very beautiful)

 

Superlative relative

In the superlative relative, the quality is at the highest degree of majority and minority with respect to other things or people.

How it is formed Examples
Majority:

il più (adjective) … di / tra / fra (other things or people we’re making a comparison with)

Minoranza:

il meno (adjective) … di / tra / fra (other things or people we’re making a comparison with)

Marco è il più alto del gruppo

(Marco is the tallest in the group)

 

Marco è il meno alto tra gli amici

(Marco is the least tall among the friends)

N.B. Sometimes “di”, “tra”, “fra” can be omitted!

For example:

Hanno scelto solo i giocatori più alti (… tra tutti i giocatori della squadra). → They have chosen only the tallest players (… among all the players of the team)

 

PARTICULAR FORMS OF COMPARATIVE AND SUPERLATIVE

The adjectives buono, cattivo, grande, piccolo (good, bad, big, small) have the regular forms of comparative and superlative (più buono, cattivissimo, il più grande…) as well as the irregular ones, which are very common in Italian:

POSITIVE COMPARATIVE SUPERLATIVE
Buono Migliore Ottimo
Cattivo Peggiore Pessimo
Grande Maggiore Massimo
Piccolo Minore Minimo

 

Other adjectives, instead, have only the comparative and the superlative, but they do not have the positive degree. These adjectives are:

POSITIVE COMPARATIVE SUPERLATIVE
 / Superiore Supremo, sommo
 / Inferiore Infimo
 / Interiore Intimo
 / Esteriore Estremo

These forms, differently from “buono, cattivo, grande e piccolo”, don’t have regular forms! Therefore, saying “più superiore”, “meno esteriore” and so on is a mistake!

Have a look at all our lessons!

Vediamo se hai appreso i contenuti di questa lezione! Prova a fare gli esercizi!

Quale grado dell'aggettivo esprime un paragone tra due termini rispetto ad una determinata qualità?
Seleziona solo le due categorie del SUPERLATIVO:
Completa la frase usando il comparativo di maggioranza: la mia televisione è grande della tua!
Completa la frase usando il comparativo di minoranza: La Lamborghini è veloce della Ferrari!
Completa inserendo la parola mancante: La sua ragazza è più simpatica bella
Seleziona la frase in cui è usato il SUPERLATIVO:
Seleziona tutte le forme corrette del comparativo e superlativo dell'aggettivo BUONO:
Seleziona tutte le forme corrette del comparativo e superlativo dell'aggettivo PICCOLO:
Seleziona tutte le forme corrette del comparativo e superlativo dell'aggettivo CATTIVO:

Do you still have doubts about how to form and use the comparative and the superlative? Leave us a comment, we’re glad to help you!  😀

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