I was always told by my teacher at secondary school (and I considered her a very good teacher), that "nicer" is grammatically incorrect. I never used it at all.

I studied English in 1989-1993. Has the language changed?

Now is the word "nicer" considered correct?

I see many people use it but I still remember the lessons of my Czech teacher and I can't use it. No way.

Please clarify.

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    If my ex-teacher and your ex-teacher meet, they probably can't be nice to each other. My ex-teacher has taught me nice, nicer and nicest. Jan 16, 2020 at 12:04
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    Teachers have traditionally frowned on the use of nice when you might have chosen a more original adjective to describe something pleasant, but there is nothing ungrammatical about it or its comparative nicer. Jan 16, 2020 at 13:37
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    I was certainly taught that nice is a bland and generic word that should be used sparingly if at all. I think we were banned from using it for a month, to make us think of alternatives. If nice is OK, I don't see any reason to object to nicer. I don't think I could bring myself to say more nice.
    – JD2000
    Jan 16, 2020 at 13:39
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    Nicer was valid back in 1989 and is still valid today, though of course it is possible to include it in a grammatically incorrect sentence. So either you misunderstood your teacher at the time or she was wrong about this word.
    – nnnnnn
    Jan 16, 2020 at 14:27
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    (1) A single word (or candidate, if there is doubt about wordness) can be neither grammatically correct nor incorrect. Grammar has to do with constructions, the permitted ways in which different types of words can be combined. (2) For simple examples like 'nice', 'nicer', there's a very easy way to check whether the candidate is in the English lexis (an accepted word): check in a reputable dictionary. These candidates will probably be in every English dictionary: they're words. (3) How and how frequently it is judicious to 'nice/r' in various registers is another question, involving style. Jan 16, 2020 at 17:53

3 Answers 3


I can see no reason why there should not be a comparative of the adjective ‘nice’ when used as meaning ‘pleasant or agreeable’; nor does the poster present one.

It may be that some linguistic pedants feel that because one of the earlier meanings of nice expressed the absolute idea of ‘precise, fine’, for which there was no comparison, this should carry over to other meanings. But that is not how languages work — new meaning, new usage.

There is ample evidence that ‘nicer’ has been in use since the 19th century — you just need to do a Google Books ngram search. Some examples:

Daisy, by Susan Bogert Warner, 1868

I think a vase of flowers would be a great deal nicer,” I said.

Oliver Beaumont and Lord Latimer, by Lady Emily Charlotte M. Ponsonby, 1873

“I mean that I think your plan as it is is so very nice, I would not try to make it nicer.”

I accept that the word ‘nice’ itself is weak in force, and an educated adult would use an alternative in many cases. In this respect it is interesting that both of these and some other 19th century examples are from children’s books, although they do not jar particularly. However if ‘nice’ is or was acceptable in this context, surely the comparative, ‘nicer’ should also be.

Even in its meaning as ‘precise, fine’, we find in the New England Journal of Dentistry for 1882

For if the impulse to development is given from without by the environment, these organs must be continually improved so as to perceive the nicer and nicer distinctions in the environment which will be the means of elevating the mind.

There seems to have been a decline in usage in the early 20th century (perhaps paralleling a discouragement of the use of ‘nice’), although in 1920 Hilaire Belloc, very much tongue-in-cheek, used the superlative, ‘nicest’, in:

The nicest child I ever knew
Was Charles Augustus Fortescue.

But returning to ‘nicer’, more mundane examples can be found in the mid century:

Unemployment Compensation Interpretation Service: Benefit series, 1948

…she would be required to purchase new clothes of good quality suitable for sales work in one of the nicer places…

The poster asks “Has the language changed?”. Of course it has — although not on the timescale the question suggests for this particular case. Language changes continually. And certainly an examination of the ngram cited above shows a steep rise in use in the 21st century, in both British and American writing. Presumably it is considered ‘nicer’ than it once was.


I was taught a "rule" in school to avoid the word "nice" entirely. What you need to be aware of is that that "rule" is appropriate for school children who are still learning creative writing. The overuse of "nice" is not creative or imaginative which is why many teachers prohibited its use.

However, it has always been grammatically correct where any other synonym would work, and now that I am older I use it all the time when it seems like the best choice out of all the possibilities I can think of.

There are many other "rules" in English which are really style guides that have been misunderstood and applied too generally, for example never using a preposition at the end of a sentence. So, avoiding "nicer" is only a style guide, not a rule.

Feel free to start using "nicer" as appropriate!

  • Nice one! As a former research scientist I have supervised the theses of many overseas students and always advised them to avoid the use of 'nice' until they had lived in the country ten years — it's so easy to use it in a way that makes it appear as if your vocabulary is limited to 100 words. So the difficult thing is knowing when nice or nicer is appropriate. I don't know any rule for that.
    – David
    Mar 13, 2022 at 9:50

I was taught nice & anything more nice is better, if Oxford has added it in the dictionary I would like to know when, as it was not in the early 90's.

  • Nicer was not a word in the 90's for sure Mar 12, 2022 at 20:22
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    Welcome to SE EL & U. This is an academic site where opinions alone don't cut it. As for what you were taught — How do you know it was right?. Do a Google ngram search. You will find example of the usage from the 19th Century.
    – David
    Mar 12, 2022 at 22:37
  • It was probably in Oxford's dictionary from the first edition. I didn't feel like checking further back but it's in the second edition OED with examples that date back to at least 1590. So the Early Modern English folk certainly had the word in their '90s.
    – Laurel
    Mar 12, 2022 at 23:40
  • This does not really answer the question. If you have a different question, you can ask it by clicking Ask Question. To get notified when this question gets new answers, you can follow this question. Once you have enough reputation, you can also add a bounty to draw more attention to this question. - From Review
    – livresque
    Mar 13, 2022 at 0:17
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    Ah… So am I right in thinking that you consider that the comparative of the word "nice" is "better" — the same as the comparative of the word "good"? Whatever makes you think that?
    – David
    Mar 13, 2022 at 10:08

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