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Merriam-Webster implies that the comparative and superlative for black are blacker and blackest. However, my native British colleague says he would never used blacker, only more black.

How common is using single-word comparatives and superlatives for color-designating adjectives? Is it used for some colors only (like white) whilst not for others (like black)?

Would you use the following sentences, or would you replace the single-word comparatives and superlatives with their compound version (more ..., most ...)?

Our toner is blacker than the ones from other companies.

Eco-terrorists fight for greener world.

After using this toothpaste your teeth will be whiter.

He is undoubtedly a nobleman with the bluest possible blood.

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  • Neither black nor white are colors ! ;)
    – Yohann V.
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 7:55
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    @YohannV. technically you are right :) but from the language point of view they are colors. Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 8:01
  • The answers to your (two) questions are yes and very common, respectively.
    – Drew
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 14:41
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    In brightest day, in blackest night, / No evil shall escape my sight. / Let those who worship evil's might / Beware my power--Green Lantern's light.
    – VampDuc
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 16:37
  • @VampDuc: in your example I would follow the YohannV's comment that black is not a color, because in this collocation it is rather a synonym for darkest night - expressing literally and explicitly (in the very physical meaning) just the lack of light :) Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 7:46

4 Answers 4

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Using colors as adjectives, I would use the adjectives rules.

The basic rule for adjectives is :

  • short adjectives: add ["-er",] "-est"
  • long adjectives: use ["more",] "most"

And short and long adjectives definition :

Short adjectives

  1. one syllable adjectives : old, fast
  2. 2-syllable adjectives ending in -y : happy, easy

Long adjectives

  1. 2-syllable adjectives not ending in -y : modern, pleasant
  2. all adjectives of 3 or more syllables : expensive, intellectual

Ngram

But it's true that the "most black" tends to be increasingly used, I would say that is an incorrect usage.

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  • There is a missing rule for 2-syllables-long adjectives in your definition :) Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 13:57
  • @HonzaZidek Read again the rules ^^'. A 2-syllables-long adjective ending in -y will be a short adjective and a 2-syllables-long adjective not ending with -y will be a long adjective. Then you follow the basic rule.
    – Yohann V.
    Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 22:36
  • I am not clear how to read "2. syllable adjectives" - do you mean "bullet nr. 2", or do you mean "2-syllables-long"? Because the dot usually marks items in a numbered list... but then the rest doesn't make sense. Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 20:28
  • @HonzaZidek Oh I see what your problem is, - became . and I missed the syllables numbers. I edited to make it clearer, ask me if it's not.
    – Yohann V.
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 12:00
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For every one of your examples, your usage is more common than its "more X" counterpart.

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The er suffix can be added to many words to indicate a superlative, such as faster, stronger etc, it's not specific to colours. Something like whiter is very commonly used, as in advertising for toothpaste. whiter is more succinct and effective than more white in this context

The exception is words ending in a vowel, such as purple, orange. Here you would say more orange

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    faster is comparative, not superlative Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 13:06
  • What about blue? Ending in a vowel... but other people say that bluer and bluest is OK. Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 7:22
  • Yes, I didn't think of that one, bluer. I guess even oranger is correct, but sounds odd.
    – Kim Ryan
    Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 11:25
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"A Whiter Shade of Pale" is apparently,

... the most-played record by British broadcasting of the past 70 years.

Reid got the title and starting point for the song at a party. He overheard someone at the party saying to a woman, "You've turned a whiter shade of pale," and the phrase stuck in his mind.


I'd use "more" instead of "-er" only in the following context: "It's more blue than green" or "It's more black than red" – if I want to imply that "it's not green", or "so black that it's not red".

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