Verbs can be conjugated to past/future tenses. Nouns can be pluralized. Adjectives also have comparative and superlative forms. For example fast, faster, and fastest.

What is the word that describes converting between the base form and the comparative and superlative forms?

  • 2
    In Latin adjectives were declined, like nouns. Latin grammarians did not consider adjectives different from nouns -- Latin adjectives had all the same endings as nouns and were used to modify nouns or as nouns. Since English adjectives aren't inflected, it's just degree of comparison: positive (X), comparative (X-er, with monosyllabic words, and some disyllables), and superlative (the X-est, with the same words). But even that's breaking up now, and only works with a small minority of short common adjectives. Syntax is taking over. Sep 19, 2015 at 22:43
  • @JohnLawler I always thought that big, bigger, biggest was inflectional morphology (and certainly not derivational). English short adjectives are inflected to mark comparative and superlative forms (with -er and -est respectively).
    – tchrist
    Sep 22, 2015 at 16:59
  • 1
    Some grammars speak of "The comparison of adjectives". So in Longman English Grammar by Alexander. Actually a precise term is lacking because the two inflected adjective forms (comparative and superlative) have not the importance as the verb forms (covered by the term conjugation) or the forms of the noun (covered by the term declension). Even in Latin grammar there was no special term for adjective forms of comparison.
    – rogermue
    Sep 22, 2015 at 18:15
  • They're inflected for degree, just like Latin adjectives were; but they're not inflected for case, number, or gender, which Latin adjectives were. Since there are only three degrees, but five cases, three genders, and two numbers, that's 3 inflections versus 90 inflections, which is relatively uninflected. Like the rest of English. The inflections are fading away gradually. Sep 22, 2015 at 20:32
  • I unfortunately have nothing new to add to this, except that in norwegian (my mother tounge), which is also a germanic language, there is a word for this. The word is 'gradbøyning' and translates directly to 'degree conjugation'. I have been unable to find the etymology of this word. For english, I have only ever hear phrasings such as "to form the superlative of ...", but never a distinguished word for this.
    – AfterMath
    Apr 26, 2020 at 10:30

1 Answer 1


There isn't a single word but, grammatically, we call that "degrees of comparison".

Degrees of comparison refers to adjectives being written in different forms to compare one, two or more nouns which are words describing persons, places and things. The three different forms of comparison are the positive, the comparative and the superlative.

Rules and exceptions on how to form the comparative and superlative degrees has been the subject of several questions here. Rules for single-word comparatives and superlatives

  • 1
    WIkipedia seems to like inflected for this. I’ve asked Professor Lawler whether this word is suitable in a comment above.
    – tchrist
    Sep 22, 2015 at 17:02

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