Latin Adjectives: Comparison of Adjectives
"Good, better, best..." — this best sums up what comparison of adjectives is all about. These adjectives all have the same general meaning, except in terms of degree. These degrees are called:
- positive: the plain form of the adjective (e.g. “good”)
- comparative: indicating more of a particular quality (e.g. “better”)
- superlative: indicating the most of a particular quality (e.g. “best”)
Another example could be: tall, taller and tallest. And here is a final example: indicative, more indicative, and most indicative.
General Comparison Forms
In general, you accomplish forming these degrees in Latin by the following inflection to the root of the adjective. Remember that the root of the adjective is gained by removing the ending from the word’s genitive form:
positive: no change needed — “positive” just means the regular form of the adjective.
comparative: add -ior to change the meaning to “more __________.” Treat this new word as a third declension adjective of two terminations. For example: fortis (strong) becomes fortior (stronger), or fortius if neuter.
superlative: add -issimus to change the meaning to “most __________.” To continue the example, Fortis would become fortissimus (strongest). The new word can be declined as a first or second declension adjectives (yep, as in: –us, -a, -um).
Comparative — fortior, fortius (stronger, braver)
Superlative — fortissimus, -a, -um (strongest, bravest)
Irregular Adjectives of Comparison
Some commonly-used adjectives change stems when using the comparative and superlative forms. This is just like how “good” changes to “better” and “best”, instead of “gooder” and “goodest”. Here is a list of adjectives that have this irregular inflection. Their comparative and superlative forms are still declined the same — the only major change is the stem of the word.
- bonus (good), melior, optimus.
- malus (bad), pejor, pessimus.
- parvus (small), minor, minimus.
- magnus (large), major, maximus.
- multus (much), plūs, plūrimus,
- frūgī (thrifty), frūgālior, frūgālissimus,
- nēquam (worthless), nēquior, nēquissimus.
Defective Adjectives of Comparison
When something is “defective” in Latin grammar, it means that is missing principle parts which are not used or found in the language. Defective adjectives of comparison can lack the positive, comparative, or superlative forms.
Comparison adjectives lacking a positive form
These are usually comparisons drawn from prepositions. For example, the word “nearer” can be an adjective, but “near” is considered a preposition, which means that it’s not considered a positive form.
- prae (in front of), prior (former), prīmus (first)
- citrā (this side of), citerior (on this side), citimus (near)
- ultrā (beyond), ulterior (farther), ultimus (farthest)
- intrā (within), interior (inner), intimus (innermost)
- prope (near), propior (nearer), proximus (nearest)
- dē (down), dēterior (inferior), dēterrimus (worst)
Comparison Adjectives Lacking a Comparative Form
For reasons that are — quite frankly — beyond me, there are some adjectives that do not have a comparative form. I do know that a handful of these adjectives have a similar meaning to other adjectives, from which a comparative form can be found (e.g. you can use recentior (from recens), to say “newer”).
- vetus (old), veterrimus
- fīdus faithful, fīdissimus
- novus (new), novissimus
- sacer (sacred), sacerrimus
- falsus (false), falsissimus
Comparison Adjectives Lacking a Superlative Form
Once again, for reasons that are beyond the scope of this guide, there are some adjectives that do not have a superlative form. Many adjectives ending in -alis and -ilis also fall into this category.
- alacer (lively), alacrior
- ingēns (great), ingentior
- salūtāris (wholesome), salūtārior
- juvenis (young), jūnior
- senex (old), senior