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I am constantly told "funner" is not a word. Even Google auto corrects. Yet "funner" is used very often in spoken English with people I meet.

Is funner a word? If not why?

What causes it to not be a word?

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    'Funner' is never used in spoken English with people I meet. Although I've sometimes heard:'Me and John went to t'cinema last week' (or a close facsimile). The latter would probably be marked wrong in an English language exam. I think the former might, too. Different standards are applied, rightly or wrongly, in different arenas. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 15 '13 at 23:07
  • Again, the final arbiter is usually agreed to be the OED. If it's not there, claiming it's a word is considered courageous at the very least. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 15 '13 at 23:28
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    Some people may agree the OED is the final arbiter. Others know that there is no such animal. – Colin Fine Nov 16 '13 at 14:05
  • @Colin Fine: The other major viewpoint is given eloquently by Matt Эллен in the 'What are the criteria to adopt new words into English' thread: 'For a phrase to be adopted into a language, enough people have to start using it. There is no set of criteria beyond popularity ... For a phrase to be put into a dictionary, that's a different matter.' The question this throws up is 'how many?' I'm not going to accept Kaz's 'myself and my son'. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 16 '13 at 20:01
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    M-W: adjective; sometimes funner; sometimes funnest – fixer1234 May 8 '17 at 0:43
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The AHDEL has this USAGE NOTE:

The use of fun as an attributive adjective, as in a fun time, a fun place, probably originated in a playful reanalysis of the use of the word in sentences such as It is fun to ski, where fun has the syntactic function of adjectives such as amusing or enjoyable. The usage became popular in the 1950s and 1960s, though there is some evidence to suggest that it has 19th-century antecedents, but it can still raise eyebrows among traditionalists. The day may come when this usage is entirely unremarkable, but writers may want to avoid it in more formal contexts.

So fun can hardly be called a central adjective even though it is here conceded to have an existence as an adjective. Thus, arguments that 'funner' and 'funnest' must therefore be acceptable cannot be taken as read - 'merest' exists, but not 'merer'.

The best one can say is that some people accept funner and funnest as allowable words and others don't, that both schools have pretty good arguments on their side, and that the supporters of the usages will almost certainly come out on top in a few years.

  • Nice answer. I like it. – Cyberherbalist Nov 15 '13 at 23:03
  • "mere" is not an ordinary adjective because it doesn't support the use "[noun] is mere". There is no reason why it should form a superlative-like form, yet we have it. "merest" does not mean "most mere"; its is just "mere" dressed up as a superlative. It looks like "fun" similarly has an exceptional status in the socio-economically preferred dialect of English. Use as an adjective is allowed, but not a fully-fledged one in some sense. People who do not adhere to that dialect simply apply the straightforward rules in forming the comparative and superlative. – Kaz Nov 15 '13 at 23:34
  • It seems that we need "merest" even though it means the same thing as "mere" because the superlative form legitimizes the isolation of a single item: "the merest whisper" and so on. "the merest whisper" doesn't mean "the whisper which is most mere"; it is only a trick. "the merest whisper wakes him" means exactly the same thing as "merely a whisper wakes him" or "a mere whisper wakes him". If we want to use "the", we need the superlative form since "the mere whisper" is ungrammatical. – Kaz Nov 15 '13 at 23:49
  • I have trouble accepting mere as an adjective in the first place; I mentioned it here only to argue against claims for uniform behaviour. 'A mere youth' is 'a member of that virtually helpless, powerless, insignificant, naive... '(perhaps I'm laying this on a bit thick) 'group, youths'. Mere modifies the whole class of which our 'youth' is a member. It's certainly non-semantically-predicative (Who is mere?!) and there's no noun around that it can be sensibly claimed to be modifying. Really, it's a pragmatic marker, a comment by the speaker on the situation. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 16 '13 at 0:00
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Yet "funner" is used very often in spoken English with people I meet.

This means that it is a word. Just like "homie" is a word.

Words don't have to be used often to be words. For instance, "cryptosporidium" is a word which is used less often by the people you meet than "funner".

Yet, the anchorwoman of your six o'clock news show would probably use "cryptosporidium" when appropriate, while avoiding "funner" in favor of "more fun".

For some reason, "funner" is a disfavored in what my linguistics professor used to call the "socio-economically preferred dialect", which is basically the educationally corrected language used by the socio-economic elite of society, at least in formal communication.

This is a far cry from "funner" actually not being a word.

If you intend to make a speech in the preferred dialect, then use of the word "funner" is probably inconsistent with your objective.

It is curious why, because "fun" is in a similar lexical category as, say, "green", and yet "greener" is not disfavored in the same way. The possible reason is that "fun" wasn't always in this category; so to speak, it is a late-comer into this category of words. Once upon a time, it was not possible to use "fun" as an adjective. Perhaps more time is needed for "fun" to be more fully integrated into the preferred dialect as a fully fledged adjective. Meanwhile, people not sticking to that dialect, of course, just use the rules of the language as they are intended. There is no such thing as not a fully fledged dialect in natural language. Once we consider "fun" to be an adjective, we have a legitimate basis for using "funner" and "funnest". If we do not believe so, then it means we do not consider "fun" to be an adjective and should also avoid saying things like "I had a fun time" rather than "I had fun".

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    [Cryptosporidium vs. funner] (books.google.com/ngrams/…) - apparently not. – long Nov 15 '13 at 22:50
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    @long NGRAMS measures books, not live language use. Note that OP writes "Yet 'funner' is used very often in spoken English with people I meet.". Such utterances are not counted. I would guess that more people speak the word "funner" in a day around the world, than "crytposporidium" in a month. Of course "funner" will tend to be avoided in books. – Kaz Nov 15 '13 at 22:54
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    What is, and what is not a word is kind of in flux, isn't it? Who judges? "Funner" is, of course, a word in the same sense that "ponyfraggis" is a word, if "word" is defined as a pronounceable sequence of letters delimited by whitespace. In terms of usage, the frequency of use of "More fun" vs "funner" in formal writing suggest that "funner" is spoken slang. Naturally it is a word, too. – Cyberherbalist Nov 15 '13 at 23:01
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    But it's a toddlerspeak word not an English word. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 15 '13 at 23:12
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    @EdwinAshworth Native speakers of English understand what funner means. People that only speak English understand what funner means. I suspect that you, too, understand what this word means. You don't have to like it or agree to its usage, but it's definitely an English word by any sense of the term. – MunchyWilly Nov 17 '13 at 8:12
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If an English language learner uttered the words

This is a funner film

I'm pretty sure that native speakers would either correct him, "This film is more fun" or skip past the error but immediately sense that something was off. However, in the many years of teaching English privately to students I can say, hand on heart, I've never come across this type of language mistake by Italian learners (I cannot vouch for other nationalities), on the contrary they often produce the following

This is the more funny film

and

The holiday was funny

The first is the result of an L1 (first language) interference while the second is grammatically correct and in the right context be very acceptable, but in most cases the ESL students meant to say, fun. Why bother correcting these errors in speech and writing if "more" and "funny" are words that exist and can be found in any dictionary? Because, as I explain to students, English native speakers do not normally say these sentences and communication might break down.

Language learners tend to be a highly motivated lot and want to (some desperately need to) communicate effectively in English. Prescriptive grammar is a necessary evil in order to help non-native speakers sound more natural. For the very same reasons, funner and funnest may be classed as words, found in dictionaries and may even be uttered by native speakers, it does not mean phrases or sentences that contain these expressions are standard... not yet.

Type "funner" in Google, and the first page will show people asking whether funner is a word or not. On that same page is the Grammarist's viewpoint which I'll quote because it argues in favour for "funner" quite convincingly

The reason the use of funner and funnest has been discouraged is that fun was until recently only a noun. Nouns do not have comparative (-er) and superlative (-est) forms, but mass nouns such as fun can be modified by more and most (e.g., “I have more water,” or “he has the most courage”). But while some of the stodgier English reference books still pretend fun is not an adjective, most English speakers moved on long ago, and the adjectival fun is rarely questioned. Ultimately, if we accept that fun is an adjective—and we have no choice, because it’s common—then we also have to accept funner and funnest. Comparatives and superlatives of one-syllable adjectives usually take the -er and -est endings, and there’s no good reason fun should be any different.

A well-argued case for funner and funnest being the logical and natural comparative and superlative forms for fun. Yet, I doubt I could ever bring myself to say one day, let alone write,

“This holiday was funner”.
“That was the funnest holiday”.

On the other hand, Urban Dictionary1 which purportedly reports on the most up-to-date language developments has this to say about funner

The dumb person's way of saying 'more fun'

I suspect the majority of English speaking people (whom neither ELU, nor the Grammarist represent) think this on hearing and reading "funner".

  • This is a funner film This sounds weird to you because it's nonsense without some context. You're using a comparative with nothing to compare to. Also I've never described a film as fun at all. However: "What did you think of the new call of duty game?" "Eh, the last one was funner". Are you suggesting that one must say "Eh, I had more fun playing the last one"? To me that's ABSURD – Cruncher May 3 '18 at 21:21
  • @Cruncher the context was implied in the answer. But what's wrong with saying "I had more fun /the most fun playing with Call of Duty 4"? ("I had funner playing with CoD 4"??) – Mari-Lou A May 3 '18 at 21:33
  • You wouldn't say "I had funner playing with CoD 4". Again that's nonsense. You're throwing an adjective into a noun context. But fun is an adjective as well. You're just strawmanning by avoiding those. You could say "CoD 4 is fun" or "Cod 4 is funner than CoD MW2" just as well. Why must I say "I had more fun playing CoD 4 than I did playing CoD MW2"? Why must I find a contrived way to fit what I want to say with a noun context because people don't like using fun as an adjective? – Cruncher May 7 '18 at 15:57
  • @Cruncher feel free to say whatever you like but you first suggested "Eh, the last one was funner" You're the native speaker, and I'm guessing an American too. It's your language and while you're at it, post an answer. :) – Mari-Lou A May 7 '18 at 16:14
  • @Cruncher post your contribution on the older question (this one is closed). You can, if you want, link your reply back to me. I don't mind in the slightest. – Mari-Lou A May 7 '18 at 16:20
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What defines whether something is a real word or not? Funner is not a word I'd be likely to use in a published manuscript, however it is defined in the following online dictionaries:

funner

and

funner

It is certainly funner to use it when it's a pretend word.

  • That's what I said! :-) Sort of. – Cyberherbalist Nov 15 '13 at 22:27
  • The caveats (humorous, nonstandard) and (sometimes) given in the dictionaries you link to should be added when it is stated that 'the word is defined'. [I'm working on what 'funner' is the rest of the time. Perhaps it's an allowable usage on alternate Thursdays.] – Edwin Ashworth Nov 15 '13 at 23:01
  • There are degrees of acceptability. At one level is the vocabulary you would use when presenting a doctoral thesis at interview. Further down are words you might use with adults in your family, which could appear in the latest editions of dictionaries, and perhaps some only in urban dictionaries. Then there is 'baby talk' which you only use with children 'moo-cow', pussy-cat' etc. Finally there are dialect words, and ones you might find in an urban dictionary or uttered by the hoi polloi in the public fora, suitable only for use at football grounds when ranting with the rest of the crowd. – WS2 Nov 15 '13 at 23:11
  • My dictionary's got moo-cow in it. And a picture. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 15 '13 at 23:26
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"Funner" is not a word, because "fun" is a noun, not an adjective. You can't turn a noun into a comparative, unless it has an adjectival form, which this does not.

Otherwise you'd be making comparisons between different "clocks", for example, by saying that clock "A" was clocker than clock "B".

People say a lot of things that aren't proper grammatical English. So what? People exceed the speed limit and rob banks, too. Doesn't make it right. Although it might be more funner to race a car than drive like an old lady. Or old man.


As @Whitecat points out, I am wrong to say that "fun" is not used as an adjective, because it is, sometimes, used as an adjective. Nevertheless, it is not an adjective, as the Google Ngram in @Jeremy's answer suggests.

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    I love this explanation. But isn't fun also an adjective? What is a word with an adjectival form? – Whitecat Nov 15 '13 at 22:31
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    Oh, maybe you're right. "It was a fun movie." Hmmm. I guess I don't know what I'm talking about, after all. – Cyberherbalist Nov 15 '13 at 22:35
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    Of course "fun" is an adjective. It is in the same category as "green", which forms "greener", as in "the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence". – Kaz Nov 15 '13 at 22:36
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    I haven't felt more guilty since I killed that mouse. However, when you say '"fun" ... is, sometimes, used as an adjective. Nevertheless, it is not an adjective', you are arguing against what various dictionaries say. They say that it actually exists as an adjective but that the adjective tends to be used only in informal situations. It is not an attributive use of a noun (like say particle in particle board), because they can't switch to the predicative position (*this board is particle).... – Edwin Ashworth Nov 16 '13 at 0:13
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    @WS2 "Because millions of working-class kids in Britain say this, should it be dignified by acceptance into the OED? For this is what people seem to be saying regarding 'funner' and funnest'." If a certain number of people say it [ie that it's acceptable], and go on to use it [the usage], it [the usage] must be included in OED because that's how what is included is determined. It doesn't necessarily mean that the usage you / I prefer must be dropped. (Though I use 'X is fun to do' where 'fun' can't reasonably be analysed as nounal, but adjectival as in 'X is easy to do'.) English changes. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 16 '13 at 12:27

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