As a non-native speaker I am curious about the everyday usage of more poor in contrast to poorer. The dictionary dictates poorer as the correct form, with some allowing both forms.

According to Google Ngram Viewer poorer is more common in books by an immense factor of 100.

Is more poor a colloquialism? If so, are there cultural differences? Or is it simply due to some people's lack of effort? Are there situations where you would favor more poor?

Particularly this uncontested response on answers.com got me pondering.

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    Where would you use it? Maybe in parallel constructions, as in "the XXX are more underprivileged, more illiterate, and more poor than any other minority group in Ruritania" (Although you could use poorer there, as well.) – Peter Shor Sep 22 '14 at 12:41
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    Of course, there are also sentences like there are more poor people in the suburbs than there used to be, which will also show up in nGram. – oerkelens Sep 22 '14 at 12:46
  • @oerkelens: that indeed is by far the most common occurrence of "more poor" in nGram. – Peter Shor Sep 22 '14 at 12:47
  • Thus, apart from the comparable form, there is another usage of more poor in certain sentences. As to the answers.com response, am I correct to assume that, just like in many other cases, the more <adjective> form becomes increasingly often used although it may defy certain rules of grammar when to use "more" instead of "-er"? – Marius Sep 23 '14 at 8:22

Have a look at the BNC/the British National Corpus. For "poorer" BNC has 879 examples. For "more poor" only 8, and they are of the type "There are more poor people in + place".

"more poor" as a comparative form clearly does not conform to standard English. The rule is adjectives with one syllable have the endings -er/est.

  • But 'more fun' rather than 'funner' shows that the rule cannot be claimed to be universal. – Edwin Ashworth May 3 '17 at 19:04

I would like to added that although poorer is the correct version, the reason more poor is used many times in spoken English is because of the 'r' sound at the end of the sentence. Many people find it difficult and awkward to add an er to a word already ending in the 'er' sound. Therefore, both are correct in spoken form (and very few would ever notice which you choose). In written form, it is always best to follow the grammar rules. I have, however, also seen more poor in written form. Perhaps, this is due to the significant use in spoken language that has crept into the writing.

  • This is an interesting point. There are not so many monosyllabic adjectives that end in "r", and of them, the word "far" has developed an irregular comparative form "further/farther", and "clear" seems to be another word where people commonly feel uncertain about the correct way to form the comparative. – sumelic May 3 '17 at 22:27

In my opinion poorer fits better because it has less than three syllables instead of more that is added when the adjective has more than three syllables.

  • Hi, welcome to English Language and Usage! This is a good point, but we generally want longer answers that are supported with some authority—do you have a reference you can cite for the rule about longer words getting "more"? That would improve your answer, and help you get more up-votes instead of downvotes. For more information about answering (or asking) questions, check out our Help Center. – 1006a May 3 '17 at 18:54

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