There was a question recently about comparatives and it got me thinking about how comparatives are formed.

There are those that take -er and those that use more to indicate comparison, but is worse the only comparative in English that is intrinsically comparative? That is, it is not necessary to modify it by adding a suffix or a helper.

Why is this the case? Looking at Etymonline seems to indicate that it came into English as a comparative already, which would I think explain its irregular form, but I don't know enough about etymology to know if that is a good guess. Are there other words like this, or is worse unique?

  • I've been holding out accepting an answer because both just offer a single counterexample and neither one has anything to say with regard to the last paragraph asking about the why. However, it seems we have a question about suppletion that has as good an answer as any with regard to the why of these irregularities, so I thought I would include it here.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Dec 31, 2012 at 12:19
  • Aren't "superior to" and "inferior to" comparatives? Nether uses -er or more.
    – Sven Yargs
    Mar 9, 2013 at 2:24

2 Answers 2


Much/many, more, most and little/few, less/fewer, least/fewest are the positive, comparative, and superlative quantifiers in English. They come in two scales, with affirmative and negative increments.

Note that the negative scale distinguishes count (few, fewer, fewest) from mass (little, less, least) consistently, while the affirmative scale does so only in the positive degree (much, many); more and most don't distinguish mass from count - fewer people, less cheese; more people, more cheese.

  • So more = more and fewer = with an -er, but less is different too. So is it just worse and less then?
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Dec 21, 2012 at 18:03
  • 1
    +1 for the insightful note on fewer/less
    – Alok
    Dec 21, 2012 at 19:46

It's not unique. "Less" is a valid comparative of "little."

  • 2
    I thought the comparative of little was littler.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Dec 21, 2012 at 17:56
  • @KitFox The comparative of I have little interest in X is I have less interest in A than I have in B. The superlative is I have the least interest of all of us.
    – tchrist
    Dec 21, 2012 at 22:01
  • I think most people would say smaller instead of littler.
    – A.Ellett
    Dec 21, 2012 at 22:54
  • @KitFox "Littler" is the comparative when you're talking about size. "Less" is the comparative when you're talking about degree.
    – user32047
    Dec 22, 2012 at 13:51

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