Comparatives and Superlatives
Read this page, then try this practice.
Comparatives involve statements of comparison among two or more people, places, activities, things, or attributes. Superlatives can even exist by themselves (e.g. an exaggerated degree of an attribute, like very good, incredibly talented, etc.) or they can be considered superlative relative to others in their reference group (e.g. the highest grade in the class). In this second use, they are formed very similar to Italian to the comparatives, and it is for this reason that comparatives and superlatives are often treated together. To prepare for the grammar of this section, it could be helpful to:
❀ Review descriptive adjectives, both their forms and their meanings.
❀ Review all articles (il, la, l’, lo, etc.) and which ones are used with which nouns.
❀ Review adverbs, if you need to make comparisons among activities.
In Italian, there are two kinds of comparatives, the so-called comparatives of equality (comparativi di uguaglianza), and the comparatives of inequality (comparativi di disuguaglianza). The comparatives of equality are used to demonstrate the situation of entities having similar (or equivalent properties), for example: I have as many brothers as sisters. The comparatives of inequality are used to demonstrate the situation in which entities have different properties, for example: I have more brothers than sisters. Below are some examples in Italian.
Comparativi di disuguaglianza
|Sono più alto di mio fratello.||I am taller than my brother.|
|Hai più compiti di me.||You have more homework than me.|
|Segui più di cinque corsi questo semestre?||Are you taking more than five courses this semester?|
|Mio padre è lavora meno di mia madre.||My dad works less than my mom.|
|Siamo meno socievoli dei nostri cugini.||We’re less outgoing than our cousins.|
|Io mi sento più italiano che americano.||I feel more Italian than American.|
|Studio più a casa che in biblioteca.||I study more at home than in the library.|
✽ Use più (or meno) di when comparing two entities (people, places, objects, abstract nouns) with regards to one quality or aspect. For example who has more homework – you or me – or who works more or who is more social between my mom and dad or our cousins and us.
✽ Use più (or meno) che when comparing two aspects or qualities of one entity (people, places, etc.). So, in the last two examples, there is one entity – I and two attributes – Italian and American or studying at home versus in the library.
✽ Use più (or meno) che when a preposition appears right after the comparative. This is a special case of the situation outlined directly above. In Studio più a casa che in biblioteca, a and in are both prepositions. Other common prepositions include con, per, da, di, fra/tra and su. For more about prepositions, look here.
✽ Use più (or meno) di when referring to more or less than a certain number (of things, years, etc.), as in the third example.
✽ When using a pronoun right after a comparative (as in the second example), use the disjunctive or tonic pronouns: me, te, lui, lei, Lei, noi, voi, loro.
Comparativi di uguaglianza
|Sono (così) alto come mio fratello.||I am as tall as my brother.|
|Hai tanti compiti quanto me.||You have as many homework assignments as me.|
|Segui tanti corsi di lingua quanti corsi di scienza questo semestre?||Are you taking as many language courses as science courses this semester?|
|Mio padre lavora (tanto) quanto mia madre.||My dad works as much as my mom.|
|Non siamo (così) socievoli come i nostri cugini.||We’re not as outgoing as our cousins.|
|Io mi sento tanto italiano quanto americano.||I feel as Italian as (I do) American.|
✽ There are two pairs of comparatives that can be used to express the idea of two entities being equivalent: (tanto)…quanto and (così)…come. The parentheses around the first term in each pair indicates the fact that the first word is optional.
✽ The two expressions mean the same thing but there are grammatical differences between them. Both can be used when making comparisons with regards to one adjective (i.e. tall, strong, sociable, etc.). In the first, fourth, and fifth examples, you could switch the two pairs and retain the same meaning and accuracy. However, if you are comparing the quantity of two nouns or the frequency of two verbs, you must use (tanto)…quanto. This situation applies to examples 1, 2, and 3.
✽ Così and come are invariable, meaning their endings never change, however tanto and quanto do have variable endings when they appear right before nouns. That is because in that position, they function as adjectives, and adjectives change their endings to agree with the nouns they modify.
Superlatives in Italian fall into two types: relative superlatives and absolute superlatives. Relative superlatives are comments upon superlative qualities of people, things, objects, etc. relative to others in that category. For example: My brother is the tallest in our family. Rome is the most interesting city in Italy. Absolute superlatives, in contrast, state superlative qualities of entities in and of themselves, not in relation to others in that category, but in an absolute sense. For example: My brother is very tall. Rome is an incredibly interesting city. The two kinds of superlatives are formed in very different ways. Read on below.
Relative superlatives are formed just like comparatives, depending on the use of più and che. The only difference is the addition of the definite article. Compare:
|Mio fratello è più alto di me.
My brother is taller than me.
|Mio fratello è il più alto della famiglia.
My brother is the tallest in my family.
|Roma è più interessante di Venezia.
Rome is more interesting than Venice.
|Roma è la città più interessante d’Italia.
Rome is the most interesting city in Italy.
✽ The order of superlatives (in relation to the noun) is the same as that of any other adjective. If that adjective generally goes after the noun (like interessante), the whole superlative expression (più + interessante) goes after the noun.
✽ Use the preposition di to convey the sense of the reference group for the superlative entity, rather than in. (e.g. tallest in my family = il più alto della mia famiglia.)
Comparatives and Superlatives: Practice