Is there a term to describe the case where using "-er" and "-est" is incorrect to form a comparative because it is formed by using "more" or "most"?

For example:

  • more difficult instead of difficulter

  • most difficult instead of difficultest

  • 2
    Irregular comparative?
    – bib
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 22:27
  • 1
    @bib I thougt the use of more and most is the regular comparative for words with more than 2 syllables and e.g. "good, better, best" is the irregular form, when you do not build the 1-2 syllables forms with "-er" and "-est".
    – Daniel
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 22:57

1 Answer 1


Multisyllabic adjectives use "more" to form the comparative and "most" to form the superlative. Irregular comparatives (good, better, best; bad, worse, worst) follow neither the rule for one syllable adjectives nor the rule for multisyllabic adjectives. Two-syllable adjectives admit to the multisyllabic "more" and "most" but many will also take "er" and "est," and some prefer it (disyllables in y, for example, and the trisyllabic negative forms of those disyllables: holy: holy, holier, holiest; unholy, unholier and unholiest. See Fowler.

  • 2
    This is a common myth. "Thornier" is the comparative for thorny, for example.
    – Hugh
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 2:54
  • @Hugh indeed. Also holier, saltier, happier, tidier, angrier (all two syllables the second being -y), but also cleverer, quieter, simpler, shallower etc.
    – abligh
    Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 10:55

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