An adjective is a word which qualifies a noun or a pronoun. An adjective can be used in two ways:
(1) Attributively: She is a good teacher. (Adjective is before noun)
(2) Predicatively: Bimala is intelligent. (Adjective is immediately after the verb)

When the adjective is used along with the noun as an epithet or attribute, it is said to be used Attributively. When the adjective is used along with the verb is, and forms part of the predicate, it is said to be used Predicatively. While most adjectives can be used both Attributively and Predicately, some permit the Attributive use only.

occasional visitor
sheer ignorance
major reason

Some adjectives can be used only predicatively.

She is afraid of ghosts.
I am quite well.

Correct Use of Some Adjectives

Further – Farther
Farther denotes “distance away from a place”. (In modern English further is also used to show distance) Further also denotes “In addition to”.

Kolkata is farther/further from here than Mumbai.✓
Do you have anything farther to say to us?✘
Do you have anything further to say to us?✓

Elder – Older – Oldest – Eldest
Elder and eldest are used only of persons, especially members of the same family. Older and oldest are used by both persons and things.

This building is elder than that one.✘
This building is older than that one.✓
His elder uncle is much respected.✘
His older uncle is much respected.✓
She is my oldest sister.✘
She is my eldest sister.✓
Neelu is elder than her sister.✘
Neelu is older than her sister.✓

Latter – Later
‘Latter’ indicates order and it is the antonym of ‘former’, while ‘later’ indicates time and is the antonym of ‘earlier’.

Why have you come latter than your friend?✘
Why have you come later than your friend?✓
Ram and Shyam are two classmates the later are more clever than the former one.✘
Ram and Shyam are two classmates the latter being more clever than the former one.✓

Latest – Last
Remember that latest indicates time and last indicates the order of precedence.

The last information pertains to his elevation to the higher rank.✘
The latest information pertains to his elevation to the higher rank.✓
Your name is the latest in this category.✘
Your name is the last in the category.✓

Less – Lesser
‘Less’ is used both as an Adjective and as an Adverb, whereas ‘Lesser’ is used as an Adjective.

You are lesser wise than your father.✘
You are less wise than your father.✓
Inflation is the less evil of the two – smuggling and inflation.✘
Inflation is the lesser evil of the two – smuggling and inflation.✓

Few – A few
Remember that ‘few’ means ‘almost nil’ or ‘negligible’ number. It is used in signifying numbers. ‘A few’ signifies ‘at least some’. Whenever particular emphasis is brought upon something, we use ‘the few’.

I possess few cows, only four or five.✘
I possess a few cows, only four or five.✓
The few women helped me.✘
A few women helped me.✓
A few men that were present, raised hue and cry.✘
The few men that were present, raised hue and cry.✓
Out of one thousand a few men were selected, only one or two.✘
Out of one thousand few men were selected, only one or two.✓

Little – A little – The little
‘Little, A little and The little’ signify quantity. ‘Little’ signifies negligibility, and ‘A little means some and ‘The little’ is used to lay particular stress upon the sentence specifying some quantity.

A little milk that was in the cup, evaporated.✘
The little milk that was in the cup, evaporated.✓
There is little milk in the cup, which is sufficient for tea.✘
There is a little milk in the cup, which is sufficient for tea.✓
You can’t quench your thirst, as there is a little water in the tumbler.✘
You can’t quench your thirst, as there is little water in the tumbler.✓

Degrees of comparison: Good (positive), Better (comparative), Best (Superlative)
Rule 1: When two qualities of a single person or a single thing are compared MORE is used with the first adjective even if it is a single syllable word.

He is wiser than shrewd.✘
He is more wise than shrewd.✓

Rule 2: Remember that now double comparatives or superlatives are no longer used.

These shoes are more preferable than those.✘
These shoes are preferable to those.✓

Rule 3: The adjectives which give absolute sense do not take MORE or MOST with them. Similarly, we cannot say “more parallel” or ” more square” or “more unique” etc.

This idea is more universal than that.✘
This idea is universal and the other is not.✓

Rule 4: The following adjectives are followed by to and not by than -junior, senior, inferior, prefer, preferable, superior, elder.

This piece of cloth is superior than that.✘
This piece of cloth is superior to that.✓
My sister is elder than me.✘
My sister is elder to me.✓

Rule 5: Similar things should be compared when comparing two things.

The speed of this car is greater than the old one.✘
The speed of this car is greater than that of the old one.✓
(We cannot compare the speed of the car with the car)

Rule 6: When the comparative degree is used in the superlative sense we should:
(i) use ‘any other’ if we are comparing the things or persons of the same group.
(ii) use ‘any’ if the comparison is with the things or persons outside the group.

He is better than any student in his class.✘
He is better than any other student in his class.✓
Delhi is cleaner than any other city in Bangladesh.✘
Delhi is cleaner than any city in Bangladesh.✓

Rule 7: When two adjectives in different degrees of comparison are used in the same sentence both should be complete in itself.

He is as bad if not better than his brother.✘
He is as bad as if not better than his brother.✓

Rule 8: Comparative degree should be used while comparing two and superlative degree when we compare more than two.

Among the three who is more hard-working.✘
Among the three who is the most hard-working.✓

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Devika Panikar has been teaching English Language and Literature for 14 years now. She is an Assistant Professor with the Directorate of Collegiate Education under the Government of Kerala. She teaches at the Government Colleges coming under this directorate and is now posted at the Department of English, H.H. The Maharaja’s Government College for Women, Thiruvananthapuram. This website is a collection of the lecture notes that she prepared by referring various sources, for her students’ perusal. It has been compiled here for the sake of future generations.

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