Comparative and Superlative Adjectives in German

Comparative and Superlative Adjectives in German There are three adjective degrees in German:

  • Positive (equality and inferiority comparatives)
  • Comparative (superiority)
  • Superlative

Positive degree

This is the unmodified adjective.

Ich bin müde I am tired

The comparative of equality and inferiority is formed with the positive degree:

Comparative of equality

Clauses of equality are formed with this construction: so + POSITIVE ADJECTIVE + wie

Peter ist so dünn wie Tomas  Peter is as thin as Tomas

or with the construction: gleich + POSITIVE ADJECTIVE + wie

Peter ist gleich ungelenk wie Tomas  Peter is as clumsy as Tomas

A very common usage is for comparing quantities of something. The structure is: so + viel + NON-COUNT NOUN + wie / so + viele + COUNT NOUN + wie

Ich habe so viel Geld wie du  I have as much money as you

Ich habe so viele Autos wie du  I have as many cars as you

Comparative of inferiority

The comparative of inferiority’s structure is: nicht so + POSITIVE ADJECTIVE + wie

Du bist nicht so intelligent wie ich  You’re not as intelligent as me

Comparative degree

The comparative degree is for constructing the comparative of superiority. The comparative grade is formed generally by adding “er” to the adjective:

intelligent  intelligenter  intelligent  more intelligent

Comparative and Superlative Adjectives in German

Comparative of superiority

The comparative of superiority is formed with the construction: ADJECTIVE IN COMPARATIVE DEGREE + als

Er ist stärker als ich  He is stronger than me

Peter ist dünner als Tomas  Peter is thinner than Tomas

Forming the comparative degree (special cases)

  • If the adjective ends with “-e”, one “-r” is added (the “-e” is not doubled)

müde  müder tired  more tired

feige  feiger cowardly  more cowardly

  • de + “-er”.

teuer  teurer expensive  more expensive

dunkel  dunkler dark  darker

  • If the adjective ends with “-er”, it can be formed regularly with + “-er” or, like the previous case, by losing the last “-e” + “-er”.

    lecker  leckerer / leckrer delicious more delicious

    sauber  sauberer / saubrer clean  cleaner

  • If an adjective is a monosyllable, an “Umlaut” ( ¨ ) + “er” is added (usually with vowels a, o, y and u). This also happens with the superlative degree.

krank  kränker sick  sicker

Comparative of inferiority

The comparative of inferiority is formed with the construction: weniger + ADJECTIVE + als

Er ist weniger intelligent als ich  He is less intelligent than me

Superlative degree

  • The superlative with the structure:am + Adjective in positive degree + -sten Whenever the adjective does not accompany a noun:

Welches Auto ist am billigsten? Which car is the cheapest?

  • If an adjective is monosyllabic (just one syllable), with vowels a, o, y and u, an “Umlaut” ( ¨ ) + “-sten” is added.This also happens in the comparative degree.

krank  am kränksten sick  sickest

  • When the adjective ends with one of the consonants: “-d”, “-t”, “-s”, “-ß”, “-sch”, “-x” or “-z” an “-e-” is added between the adjective in the positive degree and the ending “-sten.”

seriös  am seriösesten serious  the most serious 

süß  am süßesten sweet  the sweetest

There are some exceptions as in:

dringend  am dringendsten urgent  the most urgent

neidisch  am neidischsten jealous  the most jealous 

groß  am größten tall  the tallest

Attributive Adjective. Superlative without ‘am’

A frequent concern is about when to use am in the superlative and when not to. If the adjective is accompanied by a noun (the attributive form) am is not used. Example:

Tata Nano ist das billigste Auto der Welt  Tata Nano is the cheapest car in the world

Irregular adjectives

The following adjectives form the comparative and superlative irregularly:
Adjective Comparative Superlative Meaning
gut besser am besten good, better, the best
viel mehr am meisten much, more, the most
gern lieber am liebsten gladly, preferably, most preferably
hoch höher am höchsten high, higher, highest
nahe näher am nächsten near, nearer, nearest

Difference between “wie” and “als” (wie vs als)

An additional explanation. “Wie” will be used for the comparative of equality, while “als” will be used for the comparative of superiority. Comparisons in German generally work in a way that is similar to English. An Austrian brewery advertises its Gösser beer brand with the slogan: “gut, besser, Gösser” (“good, better, Gösser”). The German edition of Reader’s Digest is known as Das Beste (…aus Reader’s Digest).


To form the comparative for most adjectives or adverbs in German you simply add -er, as in neu/neuer (new/newer) or klein/kleiner (small/smaller).

For the superlative, English uses the -est ending, the same as in German except that German often drops the e and usually adds an adjective ending: (der) neueste (the newest) or (das) kleinste (the smallest).

Unlike English, however, German never uses “more” (mehr) with another modifier to form the comparative. In English something may be “more beautiful” or someone could be “more intelligent.” But in German these are both expressed with the -er ending: schöner and intelligenter. So far, so good. But unfortunately German also has some irregular comparisons, just as English does. Sometimes these irregular forms are quite similar to those in English. Compare, for instance, the English good/better/best with the German gut/besser/am besten. On the other hand, high/higher/highest is hoch/höher/am höchsten in German. But there are only a few of these irregular forms, and they are easy to learn, as you can see below.


Irregular Adjective/Adverb Comparison
bald (soon) eher (sooner) am ehesten (soonest)
gern (gladly) lieber (more gladly) am liebsten (most gladly)
groß (big) größer (bigger) am größten (biggest) der/die/das größte
gut (good) besser (better) am besten (best) der/die/das beste
hoch (high) höher (higher) am höchsten (highest) der/die/das höchste
nah (near) näher (nearer) am nächsten (nearest) der/die/das nächste
viel (much) mehr (more) am meisten (most) die meisten
There is one more irregularity that affects both the comparative and superlative of many German adjectives and adverbs: the added umlaut ( ¨ ) over ao, or u in most one-syllable adjectives/adverbs. Below are some examples of this kind of comparison. Exceptions (do not add an umlaut) include bunt (colorful), falsch (wrong), froh (merry), klar (clear), laut (loud), and wahr(true).


Irregular Comparison – Umlaut Added Examples
dumm (dumb) dümmer (dumber) am dümmsten (dumbest) der/die/das dümmste
kalt (cold) kälter (colder) am kältesten* (coldest) der/die/das kälteste*
  *Note the “connecting” e in the superlative: kälteste
klug (smart) klüger (smarter) am klügsten (smartest) der/die/das klügste
lang (long) länger (longer) am längsten (longest) der/die/das längste
stark (strong) stärker (stronger) am stärksten (strongest) der/die/das stärkste
warm (warm) wärmer (warmer) am wärmsten (warmest) der/die/das wärmste
In order to use the comparative forms above and to express relative comparisons or equality/inequality (“as good as” or “not as tall as”) in German, you also need to know the following phrases and formulations using alsso-wie, or je-desto:
  • mehr/größer/besser als = more/bigger/better than
  • (nicht) so viel/groß/gut wie = (not) as much/big/good as
  • je größer desto besser = the bigger/taller the better
Below are a few sample sentences to show how the positive, comparative, and superlative forms are used in German. In Part Two, we offer you a chance to test your ability to use these forms and structures in our comparison exercises.
My sister is not as tall as I am. Meine Schwester ist nicht so groß wie ich.
His Audi is much more expensive than my VW. Sein Audi ist viel teurer als mein VW.
We prefer to travel by train. Wir fahren lieber mit der Bahn.
Karl is the oldest. Karl is oldest. Karl ist der Älteste. Karl ist am ältesten.
The more people, the better. Je mehr Leute, desto besser.
He likes to play basketball, but most of all he likes to play soccer. Er spielt gern Basketball, aber am liebsten spielt er Fußball.
The ICE [train] travels/goes the fastest. Der ICE fährt am schnellsten.
Most people don’t drive as fast as he does. Die meisten Leute fahren nicht so schnell wie er.

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