When using the comparative with environmentally friendly would it be correct to say environmentally friendlier, or more environmentally friendly?

5 Answers 5


Google Ngram Viewer shows more environmentally friendly is by far the most common of the two:

Ngram of environmentally friendlier vs more environmentally friendly

This is even more stark for the superlative:

Ngram of environmentally friendliest vs most environmentally friendly

  • 1
    @z7sgѪ That's usually how language works, yeah.
    – Jeremy
    Nov 7, 2011 at 17:30

"more environmentally friendly" is more understandable (understandablier?) to this native speaker from the Northeastern US. However, I would guess that both are technically correct.


Although they both might be technically correct, I'd say it's harder to parse the latter one, that being:

more environmentally friendly

Here it might seem like more relates to environmentally, thus trying to create the phrase more environmentally, which in the former example doesn't happen:

environmentally friendlier

Here it's pretty clear the comparative is friendlier, exactly as you want it to. I'd go for this one.

  • 6
    There's a third possibility: environmentally more friendly. Nov 7, 2011 at 10:31

Either form is perfectly acceptable and neither should be considered incorrect, as friendly is part of a set of adjectives that can form a comparative with either the y -> ier transformation or more + adj.

However this is quite an unusual case because friendly is an adjective that looks like an adverb. It used to be an adverb but hasn't been used as such for a very long time. Most -ly adverbs only use the more + adv. comparative form. Perhaps this could be one reason that more environmentally friendly is preferred.

The form could also depend on context. For example,

We need more environmentally friendly buses.

is potentially ambiguous. Is this a call for buses to be friendlier to the environment (probably) or for more buses?


I would use More environmentally friendly, it sounds better said aloud and doesn't involve changing the word friendly.

However I would say that neither 3 terms are the best, and that there are far better sounding alternatives, e.g. greener, or friendlier to the environment

  • 'Better sounding' is a subjective judgement. Nov 7, 2011 at 11:29
  • I agree with this, because "Environmentally-friendly" is really just phrasal adjective, so modifying it internally is not as natural as applying modifiers to it.
    – tenfour
    Nov 7, 2011 at 11:38
  • ‘Environmentally friendly’ is no different from ‘really nice’. It’s an adjective modified by an adverb. Nov 7, 2011 at 12:14
  • We'll have to disagree on that. The distinction isn't black & white anyway, but I really do not think of the phrase as "friendly, in an environmental way". The two words together have a distinct meaning imo.
    – tenfour
    Nov 7, 2011 at 13:26
  • How things sound can play a good part and should when forming sentences, since if you have 2 equally grammatically correct choices, the better sounding should take preference. Other examples of where better sounding sentences are not subjective and usually infer grammar errors: There was a apple. ( it sounds wrong and because of that it IS wrong, hence the conception of the whole a vs an rule. Nov 7, 2011 at 21:42

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.