Comparisons of Latin Adjectives

Summary of Points to Remember

(Cf. Wheelock 26-27)

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1. Many adjectives have three degrees: the positive, the comparative, and the superlative.

These are either

(a) regular (i.e., predictable according to a regula or rule), like the English:

  red - redder - reddest

  beautiful - more beautiful - most beautiful


(b) irregular (i.e., special forms for the given word):

  good - better - best

  bad - worse - worst




2. In Latin, for REGULAR comparatives:

(a) Expect the letters IOR, except for

* neuter singular nominatives and accusatives where you find -IUS (e.g., beâtius animal, a happier animal, as subject or object)

* adjectives like those whose stem ends in a vowel, e.g., idone-us, aure-us: magis is used to indicate the comparative form and maxime the superlative: magis idoneus = more suitable.

(b) The genitive ending across the three genders is -IÔRIS. Once you have this form, you can easily produce the others.

(c) The comparatives are third-declension ADJECTIVES, but they are declined like REGULAR third declension NOUNS, not adjectives; that is, they take:

-e not -î in ablative singulars: in beâtiôre vitâ

-um not -ium in the genitive plurals: numerus lîberiôrum populôrum

-a not -ia for neuter plural nominatives and accusatives: ferôciôra animâlia

See the third-declension patterns summarized and compared.




3. In Latin, for REGULAR superlatives, expect the nominative singulars to end in -ISSIMUS -A -UM. These endings are declined just like bonus -a -um.

altissimus -a -um / lâtissimus -a -um / antîquissimus -a -um /
hûmânissimus -a -um / novissimus -a -um




4. Latin superlatives from ANY adjective that has its masculine singular nominative ending in -er (even third declension ones) do not carry the common - issim - sign of the superlative. They end instead in -ERRIMUS -A -UM. Thus the adjectives pulcher, âcer, miser, tener, lîber give us the superlatives

pulcherrimus, âcerrimus, miserrimus, tenerrimus, lîberrimus




5. Only a few Latin superlatives have -limus (and not -issimus) added to the base of the positive form that ends in -ilis:

facillimus, difficillimus, gracillimus, simillimus, dissimillimus, humillimus




6. Learn the common irregular comparisons for adjectives like





bonus a um

melior, melius
  genitives: meliôris

optimus a um

magnus a um

maior, maius
  genitives: maiôris

maximus a um

multus a um

[no singular m/f], plûs
  genitive: plûris

plûrimus a um

parvus a um

minor, minus
  genitives: minôris

minimus a um

malus a um

peior, peius
  genitives: peiôris

pessimus a um





Comparatives can be translated best sometimes by using more or sometimes by using too or rather or somewhat.

Superlatives can be translated best sometimes by using most or sometimes by using extremely or very or the suffix (i)est.



Go to the page on Regular Comparatives.





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