We use comparatives and superlatives a lot in English, and as you’ll see, the same is true for the French language.
If you’re learning French as a beginner you’ll need to know what comparatives and superlatives are and how you should use them.
You might have started learning them in your French course and need further guidance.
Good news: this guide will teach you all you need to know.
What are comparatives?
A comparative is an adjectival word or phrase used to compare items, people or objects in terms of their features or characteristics.
Here are a few examples in English:
How would these translate to French?
Take a look below:
- Plus jolie
- Plus ancien
- Plus jeune
- Plus sage
So now we’ve seen a few examples, let’s learn more about comparatives in more depth.
Affirmative French comparisons: What do they do and how should they be used?
To be specific, an affirmative French comparative compares two items, people or objects as part of a grammatically positive statement.
For instance, if you wanted to say that your friend is wiser than you, the statement would feature a comparative phrase word.
Here’s how to say it:
Mon ami est plus sage que moi.
When you deconstruct the sentence above, you get a formula that can help you create affirmative comparative sentences. This formula is:
Plus + adjective + que
Now, as you’ll typically use the comparatives plus or moins, the other formula you’ll also need is:
Moins + adjective + que
Take a quick look at some examples of these two formulas being used in the sentences below:
Ta coiffure est plus longue que la mienne.
La montagne est plus grande que le volcan
Les fleurs du voisin sont plus jolies que les miennes.
Je suis plus en colère que toi contre la hausse des prix de l’électricité.
Le chien est plus triste que le chat.
Negative French comparisons: What do they do and how should they be used?
Negative French comparisons are used in grammatically negative sentences to make negative comparative sentences. Let’s look at an English example to first understand what we mean by a negative comparative statement:
Le chien n’est pas aussi triste que le chat.
You’ll notice a different formula if you deconstruct the French version of the sentence above.
This is the formula you can use to help you:
Ne + verb + pas + aussi + adjective + que
Check out the following examples of this formula in action in different sentences:
La maison n’est pas aussi luxueuse que celle d’en face.
Le café n’est pas aussi sucré que le café que j’ai bu hier.
What are the most frequently used irregular comparative French adjectives?
Take note of the irregular comparative French adjectives that are featured in the table below. They are used frequently in French:
|French adjective||French comparative|
What are French superlatives and how should they be used?
We use French superlatives to compare more than two French nouns—that’s people, objects, things, or animals.
To create a superlative in English, we simply add the letters -est to an adjective.
One example of this is adding the suffix -est to the adjective “tall” to get “tallest”.
So, let’s focus now on creating a French superlative.
The formula below is what you’ll need to create one.
Le/La/Les + plus + adjective
Le/La/Les + moins + adjective
Here are some examples to help you visualize how this formula works:
Ce sont les animaux les plus laids de leur espèce.
C’est la plus belle maison de la rue.
C’est la plus grande fleur.
How should you use French irregular superlatives with adjectives?
There are situations where you’ll have to use irregular French superlatives to make comparisons.
To state that someone is the best skater in the ice hockey team, use the superlative phrase meilleur.
This is how you would say it:
C’est le meilleur patineur de l’équipe de hockey sur glace.
Remember, the key difference between comparatives and superlatives is the use of the article before the superlative.
Here, we would use the article le as we’re using a superlative, and it’s grammatically incorrect to say c’est meilleur patineur.
But what would the sentence be if we were talking about a female ice skater.
Or a group of male or female skaters?
Here’s how the sentences would change:
Elle est la meilleure patineuse de l’équipe de hockey sur glace.
Ce sont les meilleures patineuses de l’équipe de hockey sur glace.
Ce sont les meilleurs patineurs de l’équipe de hockey sur glace.
So, if you’re talking about a group of female skaters, you would use the feminine version of the superlative, which is meilleure.
If you’re talking about a group of female skaters, you would use the plural feminine superlative, which is meilleures.
And for a group of male skaters, use the plural masculine superlative meilleurs.
Try using French comparatives and superlatives in exercises to advance
At first glance French comparatives and superlatives might seem complex.
You’ve got to remember the grammatical rules, which can seem daunting.
But all that’s required are small amounts of frequent practice.
Begin by learning the comparative and superlative phrases this article features, such as le plus grand (which means “the largest”).
As soon as you recognise the meanings of each comparative phrase, start using the formulas described in this article to begin creating sentences of your own.
Follow this up with grammar related exercises to boost your understanding.
And then start applying your knowledge when you speak with French natives or listen to French podcasts or audios.
Do you have any other advice for learning French comparatives and superlatives?
Share your contribution below in the comments section!