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Comparative / superlative -- nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs

1. Comparative forms. They are used to compare two things and demonstrate the superiority, inferiority, or equality of one term with respect to the other. The comparative construction may focus on nouns, adjectives, or adverbs.

Adjectives. Comparative adjectives work according to the following model. Note that adjective agreement is with the principal noun:

Jean est plus grand que Catherine. (Jean is taller than Catherine.)
Philippe est moins grand que Jean. (Philippe is less tall [shorter] than Jean.)
Leïla est aussi grande que Jean. (Leïla is as tall as Jean.)

Two adjectives have irregular comparative forms:

bon ---> meilleur
mauvais ---> pire (although plus mauvais is acceptable)

Adverbs. Comparative adverbs work according to the following model:

Les étudiants travaillent plus vite que le professeur. (The students are working faster than the professor.)
Ce monsieur parle moins bien qu'un écolier. (This fellow speaks less well than a schoolboy.)
Ils travaillent aussi lentement les uns que les autres! (They are all working equally slowly!)

Two adverbs have irregular forms:

bien ---> mieux
mal ---> pis (although plus mal is acceptable)

Nouns. The comparative of nouns works according to the following model:

J'ai plus de travail que toi. (I have more work than you.)
Il a moins de devoirs que nous autres. (He has less homework than the rest of us.)
Si seulement j'avais autant de talent qu'elle! (If only I had as much talent as she!)

Before numbers, the forms become plus de, moins de:
J'ai moins de cinq francs dans ma poche! (I have less than five francs in my pocket!)
Elle a plus de cinq heures de travail à faire. (She has more than five hours worth of work to do.)

Verbs. Plus, moins, and autant que can be used as adverbs with verbs.

Lui mange plus que les autres. (He eats more than the others.)
Ce garçon-là lit moins que ses camarades. (The boy reads less than his friends.)
Tu devrais écouter autant que tu parles. (You ought to listen as much as you talk.)

2. Superlative forms. They are used when there are three or more objects of comparison; the one selected will be shown to be best, worst, fastest, etc.

The superlative functions like the comparative except in two respects:

A. The comparative term will be preceded by the definite article (which will agree with the noun in the case of superlative adjectives; invariable in the case of adverbs).
B. The superlative is not followed by que; instead, it is generally followed by de + the context of comparison. (Sometimes this context is implied.)

C'est le plus beau jour de ma vie! (It's the best day of my life!)
Elle travaille le mieux de toute la classe. (She works the best of the whole class.)
C'est elle qui est arrivée la première [de tous les coureurs]. (She's the one who came in first [among all the runners].)

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