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On Comparatives and Superlatives in German- And How To Use Them

Even though English and German share a common linguistic root, there are not many grammar topics that are as similar in the two languages as comparatives and superlatives. In fact, German adjectives form comparatives and superlatives in much the same way as English adjectives. This blog post explains how to they are formed and used.



The comparative is used to compare and contrast unequal things. German adjectives and adverbs of manner use the ending -er to form the comparative. While adjectives also have endings that agree with the noun that follows, adverbs are placed after the noun and refer to the verb, which is why they don't have endings.


Ich habe die sonnigeren Tage sehr genossen.

Der letzte Sommer war heißer als der vorherige.


Superlatives are the highest form of comparing and are formed with the ending -st. As with the comparative, adjectives have endings, whereas adverbs don't. Instead, adverbial superlatives are always formed with am+ adverb+ sten.


Die teuerste Uhr, die er besitzt, kostet £500.

Ihre Uhr ist am teuersten.


Adjectives as well as adverbs ending in -d, -t, -tz, -z, -sch, -ss, -ß normally form the superlative by inserting an -e, but there are exceptions (e.g. groß, größer, am größten).


Der heißeste Sommer war im Jahr 2012.

Dieser Sommer war am heißesten.


The table below shows adjectives and adverbs in their original, comparative and superlative forms with the most common exceptions.

​Positive (original form)

Comparative

Superlative

billig

​billiger

am billigsten

a->ä

warm

​wärmer

am wärmsten

o->ö

groß

größer

am größten

u->ü

jung

​jünger

am jüngsten

drop -e before er

teuer

teurer (not teuerer)

am teuersten

drop -e before -el

dunkel

dunkler (not dunkeler)

am dunkelsten

special forms

​gut

​besser

am besten

viel

mehr

am meisten

gern

lieber

am liebsten

hoch

höher

am höchsten

​nah

näher

am nächsten

Als vs. (So) Wie


Comparisons between equal things use the positive form of the adjective and "wie", while comparisons between unequal things use the comparative form of the adjective and "als".


Susi ist so groß wie Martina.

Marc ist größer als Susi.


If it's any consolation, German native speakers often get als and wie mixed up. However, as you can see from the above, comparatives and superlatives are not that difficult. A construction that uses two comparatives is je...desto/umso. You can learn about it in my separate post.



On our German language blog "Auf Deutsch, bitte!". you will find explanations of all main grammar topics in the language- from the German articles to word order in the language. Work with us to learn German properly.


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