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Latin Comparative Adjectives

Forming the Comparative From Latin Adjectives

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Parents of English-speaking children generally witness a phase in their children's development when they seem confused as to the correct form of the comparative adjective. Is it "more better," "gooder," or what? That children generally do figure it out is part of the miracle of our ability to use language. When learning a second language as an adult, it's much harder. Comparatives can definitely become eye-glossing-over material. They wouldn't be if the comparatives were all regular and easy, but there is little to tell you which adjectives are going to be regular, which in English means they take an -er or -ier ending, or irregular, which means ... who knows what.

Although we could probably do without this similarity with English, Latin, too, has not only regular, but also irregular adjectives:

  • bonus - good, melior/melius - better (irregular in Latin and English)
  • malus - bad, pejus/pejor - worse (irregular in Latin and English)
  • magnus - great, major/majus - greater
  • parvus - small,little, minor/minus -less (irregular in Latin and English)
  • multus - much, many, plures - more (irregular in Latin and English)
In addition to having irregular adjectives in the comparative, Latin adjectives have to be declined to go along with the noun or pronoun they modify. Remember that declining an adjective to go along with the noun means that
  • If the noun is neuter, so is the adjective.
  • If the noun is plural, so is the adjective.
  • If the noun is in one case, so is the adjective.
(If you don't remember what cases are, please see this forum thread: I think it has my best explanation to date.)

In the comparative, you don't have to worry about whether the noun is masculine or feminine, just whether or not it's neuter. That's because the endings on comparative adjectives don't follow the 1st and 2nd declensions. Instead, comparative adjectives follow the 3rd declension, with the following exceptions exceptions

  • no -i, but an -e for the ablative singular,
  • an -a instead of -ia for the neuter plural nominative/accusative, and
  • a similar lack of /i/ for the neuter plural.
Now we'll look at some actual declensions of an adjective in the comparative: the Latin for 'longer'. The Latin for 'long' is longus, -a, um. To find the base of the adjective, which you need, since you add the ending to it, look at the genitive and remove the genitival ending. The genitive singular forms of longus,-a,-um are longi, longae, longi. Removing the genitive endings leaves long-. It is to this base that the comparative endings are added, as shown:

Singular

  • nom. masc/fem. longior
  • gen. masc/fem. longioris
  • dat. masc/fem. longiori
  • acc. masc/fem. longiorem
  • abl. masc/fem. longiore
  • nom. neut. longius
  • gen. neut. longioris
  • dat. neut. longiori
  • acc. neut. longius
  • abl. neut. longiore

Plural

  • nom. masc/fem. longiores
  • gen. masc/fem. longiorum
  • dat. masc/fem. longioribus
  • acc. masc/fem. longiores
  • abl. masc/fem. longioribus
  • nom. neut. longiora
  • gen. neut. longiorum
  • dat. neut. longioribus
  • acc. neut. longiora
  • abl. neut. longioribus

More on Latin Adjectives

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