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English - Comparatives and superlatives

Simple, compound, and complex sentences are all ways of varying the length. Let’s see how they work.

Simple Sentences
A simple sentence has only the most basic building blocks of a sentence: a subject and a verb used in a complete thought, also called an independent clause.

Here are some examples of simple sentences:

 • Kristina drank her morning coffee. (Kristina = subject, drank = verb)

 • Kristina showered and dressed. (Kristina = subject, showered, dressed = compound verbs)

Simple sentences are usually short. You may use compound subjects and verbs to add length, but for the most part, using too many simple sentences makes your writing choppy.

Compound Sentences
Compound sentences join two independent clauses together with a conjunction.

• Kristina drank her morning coffee, and then she showered and dressed.

Notice the first part of the sentence and the last part can stand alone as independent sentences. The key is to not use too many compound sentences together or your writing will sound stilted.

Complex Sentences
A complex sentence uses an independent clause combined with one or more dependent clauses. A dependent clause is similar to an independent clause, but it can’t stand on its own as a complete sentence. Complex sentences use conjunctions to tie them together, too.

• Because she woke up late when her alarm malfunctioned, Kristina missed her morning train.

• As Kristina watched the train pull out of the station, she realised she would be late for work yet again.

The dependent clauses can also fall at the end of an independent clause as in these examples:

• Kristina missed her morning train because she woke up late when her alarm malfunctioned.

• Kristina realized she would be late for work yet again as she watched the train pull out of the station.

Here’s a complex sentence with two compound independent clauses and one dependent clause:

• Kristina missed her morning train, and as she watched it pull out of the station, she realized she would be late for work yet again.

Those are the basic standard sentence types.

Part 2
Comparative and superlative sentences.
These are equally easy, and you have learned these too.

A simple sentence cannot be comparative. Mostly, simple sentences are statements, with a subject and a verb. However, when we add those all-essential other forms of words - adjectives, adverbs, personal pronouns and all the others you can think of, the simple sentence stops being so simple and becomes a bit more complex.

What is a simple definition of ‘comparative’ or ‘to compare’?
It’s just the way we use to show differences.

It’s important to remember that ‘to compare’ does not mean ‘to show one thing is better than another’, because it doesn’t mean that. It is only about showing differences, not judging.

Another word which you will come across in English is ‘contrast’. Many essays will say something like “Compare and contrast the educational systems in The United States of America and Uganda.”

In that case, you both compare (show differences) and contrast (state the advantages and disdvantages of one over the other). So you can see that contrast does involve a bit of judgement. 

But it is important that your own, personal views about something being 'better than another' are not put in an essay unless your opinions are asked for in the question. Academic work is rarely about what you, as a person, thinks about this or that. It’s about empirical, non-judgemental incontrovertible evidence.

That’s comparative sentences.

The last section is about superlatives.

"When your history test results are superlative, it means you have a perfect score — you've done as well as can be done, and maybe better than everyone else.

There are times, however, when a superlative is an exaggerated expression of praise, as when a movie reviewer gets carried away with compliments and says in January that this is “the best film of the year.”

Why might the reviewer be using a superlative about a movie released in January?
Because there are 11 more months of movies to come and perhaps all of them might be better!

A superlative is a word which expresses how good something is, it’s quality - but usually in the highest terms. You’ve all used these; they are words such as ‘highest’, ‘best’, ‘tallest’ or ’shortest’. Phrases includes ‘the most handsome’, ‘the most beautiful’, ‘the eldest’ or ‘the youngest’.

Superlatives are usually adjectives, and we use them to say that a thing or a person is the best of the group it is in. We use the article ‘the’ because there is usually only one of the best in a group, but of course whatever the person is, being ‘the best’ could be in different things within the group.

For example - ‘the best English speaker’, ‘the best artist’, ‘the best thinker’ - all in the same grade, perhaps. But there’s only one of each in that group.

When the statement is a positive, we do not use an article - for example - ‘he’s my best student’, or ‘she’s the best dressed’.

It's possible to drop ‘the’ when the adjective is used later in the sentence, rather than directly before the noun. We can choose either ‘the’ or no article, with no change in meaning.

For example:

 • She is (the) most beautiful. (We can say ‘She is most beautiful)

 • This café is (the) best. (This café is best.)

 • John and Lisa are (the) most intelligent. (John and Lisa are most intelligent.)

 • This bowl is (the) biggest. (This bowl is biggest.)

But this is not possible when the adjective comes directly before the noun; we cannot say:

He is fastest swimmer. It must use the article: He is the fastest swimmer.


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