So I posted a joke on Facebook, and one of the peanut gallery chimed in that where I'd used vaster, he would have preferred more vast.

Leaving aside the question of whether vaster itself is well-established enough, is there a linguistic term or at least well-understood heading under which errors in English comparatives are collected?

I'm talking specifically about the kinds of errors where non-native or less well-read native speakers use, e.g., more hot rather than hotter, or more wet rather than wetter. Really egregious cases.

I am not asking about cases where reasonable and well-educated people can legitimately disagree on whether "Xer" is well-established enough to displace "more X", or usage of "more X" is still broadly observed in the population.

  • 3
    Not specific to comparative errors but the general term for the errors where irregular forms are replaced with regular forms is overregularization. I'm not sure if there is a specific term for comparative errors. You might say "comparative overregularization". You can see a study here where the term overregularization is used for comparative errors: lingref.com/cpp/mcd/2009/paper2349.pdf
    – ermanen
    Jan 31, 2016 at 22:33
  • Yeah, overregularization is probably the most specific single word for this. It includes using -ed for all past tenses instead of strong forms ('bringed' instead of 'brought'). A single word just for errors in forming the comparative? Not likely.
    – Mitch
    Feb 1, 2016 at 1:32

1 Answer 1


The rule of thumb is if the initial word has only one syllable, use the suffix; in all other cases, use "more."

Plus, if you add the suffix and the resulting word has two syllables, go ahead and use the suffix boldly: curvier, nuttier, etc.

There are a few exceptions, as well as jokes (which can also be viewed as exceptions, such as "curiouser and curiouser" (from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures and Romances).

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    Thanks, +1, this is useful information, and new to me. But I'm more specifically looking for a term for the gaffe of misusing or overgeneralizing rules about comparatives. Is there one?
    – Dan Bron
    Jan 31, 2016 at 20:57
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    @DanBron: What do I know from rules. Language came first! One's intuition takes precedence! Except for the rule of thumb, of course. ... I'm weird like that, don't take me too seriously unless I insist you do.
    – Ricky
    Jan 31, 2016 at 21:03
  • @JEL: Don't kill me. // Furnishing some examples of 2-syllable words pertaining to this issue would be nice.// My spelling is very impressionistic; I don't know what I'd do without ELU's lightning-quick spellchecker.// "Curvier" may have three syllables formally, but it scans beautifully as a trochee.
    – Ricky
    Jan 31, 2016 at 21:54
  • Like Curvier and Ives, I suppose.
    – deadrat
    Jan 31, 2016 at 22:23
  • @JEL Redeemable gibberish? Half right. Or should I say half vast?
    – deadrat
    Jan 31, 2016 at 22:24

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