Welcome back to The Art of Business English. In this week's episode we are going to review comparative and superlative adjectives to help you improve your communication skills in a business context.
Comparatives and superlatives are very important in business English since they provide a way to discuss the standards of a service or product against those of the competition or to evaluate the performance of a company through time. They are also useful when we need to describe the skills of employees or applicants wishing to work on a project.
First, I am going to teach you the basic rules to form and use these adjectives, as well as some common mistakes, and then I am going to show you an example on how to use them in business contexts.
Comparative adjectives contrast one person or thing with another and enable us to say whether a person or thing has more or less of a particular quality.
Superlative adjectives describe one person or thing as having more of a quality than all other people or things in a group.
Comparatives and superlatives are formed according to the following rules:
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One syllable adjectives
To form the comparative, we use the -er suffix with adjectives of one syllable.
“Our Managing Director is younger than the Sales Manager.”
To form the superlative, we use the -est suffix with adjectives of one syllable. We normally use the before a superlative adjective.
“This is the cheapest car of the line.”
If the adjective ends with an -e, we just add the -r or the -st
“This dress is nicer than the one I saw at the other store.”
“This is the finest product of this kind on the market.”
If the adjective ends with one vowel + one consonant, we double the last consonant and add the suffix -er or -est
“The USA is bigger than France.”
“This is the hottest season of the year.”
Some one-syllable adjectives have irregular comparative and superlative forms, for example:
“The morning flight is better than the afternoon one.”
“I think that was the worst film I’ve ever seen!”
“Pluto is the furthest planet from the sun in our solar system.”
Two-syllable adjectives ending in -y change -y to -i and take the -er and -est endings.
“We were busier last week than this week.”
“That was the easiest exam I’ve ever taken.”
Some other two-syllable adjectives (especially those ending in an unstressed vowel sound) can also take the -er and -est endings.
“I’ve always thought that Donald was cleverer than his brother.”
“This new bed is narrower than the old one.”
Warning: We don’t normally use the -er and -est endings with two-syllable adjectives ending in -ful. Instead, we use more/less and most/least.
“This dictionary is more useful than the one we had before.”
“The most useful tool in the kitchen is a good sharp knife.”
“A significant advantage of this system is that it is notably less harmful to the environment.”
“This is the least harmful chemical in terms of the environment.”
Adjectives of three or more syllables form the comparative with more/less and the superlative with most/least.
“The second lecture was more interesting than the first.”
“That way of calculating the figures seems less complicated to me.”
“London is the most popular tourist destination in England.”
“If you are going as a group, the least expensive option is to rent an apartment or villa.”
A comparative adjective is followed by “than”, not “that” or “as”.
“The next hotel we tried was more expensive than the first one.”
Not: …more expensive that the first one… or …more expensive as the first one…
After a superlative adjective, we don’t normally use “of” before a singular name of a place or group:
“She was the tallest girl in the team.”
Not: “She was the tallest girl of the team.”
We use the superlative, not the comparative, when we compare more than two people or things:
Which is the city’s biggest hotel?
Not: …bigger hotel
An example on how to use comparatives and superlatives for business
Now that you know the rules for forming and using comparatives and superlatives, let’s take a look at a real-life example in a business context. You will read a survey on electronics, notice how the interviewer and the interviewee take advantage of these forms.
Interviewer: Good afternoon, do you mind answering a few questions?
Interviewee: How long will it take?
Interviewer: Just a couple of minutes.
Interviewee: Well, I guess I can answer a few questions. Sure. Why not? Go ahead.
Interviewer: OK. I'd like to know your opinion. What is the best brand for laptops, smartphones and other consumer electronics?
Interviewee: I'd say that Apple is the best brand. I always buy their products and I'm quite satisfied.
Interviewer: Which brand is the most expensive brand?
Interviewee: Well, Apple is also the most expensive brand. I guess that's why they are the best in my opinion.
Interviewer: And which brand do you think is the worst?
Interviewee: Oh...To be honest, I don't really know. I haven't tried too many brands.
Interviewer: Thank you. Which is the most suitable brand for older people?
Interviewee: Well, I'm still quite young, but I think that Apple products are generally easier to use than other products, so they would probably be the most suitable for older people.
Interviewer: So, which brand do you think is the most popular with younger people?
Interviewee: Apple again? or maybe Samsung?
Interviewer: Have you tried any Samsung products?
Interviewee: No, I haven't. But my friends have Samsung smartphones, and they are generally quite happy with them. But I think that Apple make better and more reliable laptops. I've never had any problems.
Interviewer: Thank you very much for your time.
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I hope you found this episode interesting and that it helps you to communicate clearly and professionally in your daily business interactions.
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See you next week!