French Comparative and Superlative Adverbs: How They're Formed

Better/Best, the Most/the Least: What's the Equivalent in French?

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Comparative and superlative adverbs: Their names spell out the difference between them. Comparatives compare two or more things, while superlatives express extremes.

Introduction to French Comparatives

Comparatives express relative superiority or inferiority, that is, that something is more or less than something else. In addition, comparatives can say that two things are equal. There are three types of comparatives, but four different French comparative adverbs.​
1. Superiority: plus...de or que  Equivalent to: more...than, greater than
   Laure est plus sportive (qu'Anne).


   Laure is more athletic (than Anne).

2. Inferiority:   moins...de or que  Equivalent to: less....than
   Rouen est moins cher (que Paris).
   Rouen is less expensive (than Paris).

3. Equality:
   a. aussi....de or que  Equivalent to: as...as
      Tu es aussi sympathique que Chantal.
      You're as nice as Chantal.
   b. autant de or que  Equivalent to: as much/many as
      Je travaille autant qu'elle.
      I work as much as she does.

The separate lesson on French comparatives contains more detailed information about how to use comparatives, including whether to use de or que and the difference between aussi and autant.

Introduction to French Superlatives

Superlatives express ultimate superiority or inferiority, claiming that one thing is the most or least of all. There are two types of French superlatives:

1. Superiority: le plus  Equivalent to: the most, the greatest
   C'est le livre le plus intéressant du monde.

It's the most interesting book in the world.

2. Inferiority: le moins  Equivalent to: the least
   Nous avons acheté la voiture la moins chère.
   We bought the least expensive car.

The separate lesson on French superlatives contains more detailed information about superlatives, including correct word order and the use of articles.

The French usually express the superior comparative (greater) with plus and the superlative (the greatest) with le plus, but there are a few French words with special comparative and superlative forms.

Bon  in Comparatives and Superlatives

The French adjective bon (good), like its English equivalent, is irregular in the comparative and superlative. You can't say "gooder" or "more good" in English. And you can't say plus bon in French; you'd say meilleur (better), the comparative form of bon:

meilleur (masculine singular)
meilleure (feminine singular)
meilleurs (masculine plural)
meilleures (feminine plural)

   Mes idées sont meilleures que tes idées.
   My ideas are better than your ideas.

The same rule applies to the superlative. Just as you can't say "the goodest" in English, you likewise can't say le plus bon in French. You'd say le meilleur (the best), the superlative form for bon:

le meilleur (masculine singular)
la meilleure (feminine singular)
les meilleurs (masculine plural)
les meilleures (feminine plural)

   Son idée est la meilleure.
   His idea is the best.

Note: Bon is only irregular in the superior comparative and superlative. In the inferior, it follows the normal rules:

   Leurs idées sont moins bonnes.
   Their ideas are less good / aren't so good.

Bien  in Comparatives and Superlatives

The French adverb bien (well) also has special comparative and superlative forms. The comparative is mieux (better):

   Elle explique mieux ses idées.
   
She explains her ideas better.


In the superlative, bien becomes le mieux (the best):

   Il comprend nos idées le mieux.
   He understands our ideas the best. (He's the best at understanding our ideas.)

Bien, like bon, is only irregular in the superior comparative and superlative. In the inferior, it follows the normal rules:   
    Tu expliques moins bien tes idées.
    
You don't explain your ideas as well.

Note: Meilleur and mieux are both equivalent to "better" in English, and le meilleur and le mieux both mean "the best." 

Mauvais in Comparatives and Superlatives

For the comparative, the French adjective mauvais (bad) has both regular and irregular forms :

plus mauvais (masculine)
plus mauvaise (feminine singular)
plus mauvaises (feminine plural)
   or
pire (singular)
pires (plural)

   Leurs idées sont pires / plus mauvaises.
   Their ideas are worse.

For the superlative:
le plus mauvais (masculine singular)
la plus mauvaise (feminine singular)
les plus mauvais (masculine plural)
les plus mauvaises (feminine plural)
   or
le pire (masculine singular)
la pire (feminine singular)
les pires (plural)

   Nos idées sont les pires / les plus mauvaises.
   Our ideas are the worst.

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Lawless, Laura K. "French Comparative and Superlative Adverbs: How They're Formed." ThoughtCo, Oct. 11, 2017, thoughtco.com/french-comparative-and-superlative-adverbs-1368803. Lawless, Laura K. (2017, October 11). French Comparative and Superlative Adverbs: How They're Formed. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/french-comparative-and-superlative-adverbs-1368803 Lawless, Laura K. "French Comparative and Superlative Adverbs: How They're Formed." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/french-comparative-and-superlative-adverbs-1368803 (accessed November 25, 2017).