In adjectives there are two main groups:

First Group: adjectives that their 3 grades (base, comparative and superlative) are changed whether regularly (nice > nicer > nicest) or irregularly (good > better > best).

Second group: adjectives that their 3 grades, are changed by adding "more" or "most" (e.g. "more expensive" or "most expensive" rather than expensivier or expensiviest)

Then my question is, how are these two groups distinguished terminologically?

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    Can you explain what you mean by "terminologically"?
    – James K
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 16:00
  • Yes, of course. I meant to ask how they are frequently called in the grammar terminology field. Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 17:38
  • You mean "what terms are used describe these groups?"
    – James K
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 17:57
  • Yes. What are they called (rather than "how they are called") in the grammar terminology. or is short as you said "what are the terms for these groups". 👍 Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 18:40
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    Of course they can be distinguished. When categorising adjectives that enter the system of grade by means of comparison, there are two sub-types: those that are inflectionally gradable and those that are analytically gradable. They correspond to the OP's first and second groups respectively.
    – BillJ
    Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 18:35

1 Answer 1


I think the OP is asking how to classify the different types of adjectives. Apologies if I have misunderstood.

Basically, adjectives can be classified by the number of syllables. The rules governing disyllabic adjectives are a bit complicated to go into any great detail but see this question and the answers posted on EL&U if you are curious.

Adjectives consisting of one syllable are monosyllabic

They can also be called one syllable adjectives.

Adjectives with two syllables are bisyllabic or disyllabic

Or they can simply be called two syllable adjectives

Adjectives with three syllables are trisyllabic or three syllable adjectives

  • In English, the comparative can be formed either synthetically (prouder) or analytically (more proud). Quirk et al. (1985: 461) identify word length as the major factor in the distribution, suggesting that the synthetic comparative is formed by monosyllabic adjectives, while trisyllabic or longer adjectives form the analytic comparative.

  • Disyllabic adjectives are said to exhibit variation. While word length does seem to have a strong effect, exceptions such as more apt or trustworthier indicate that more factors have to be considered.

The English comparative - Phonology and Usage

  • Thank you @Mari-Lou for your answer. But honestly I didn't ask how to classify the different types of adjectives. I ask very specifically about one classification of adjectives while I mentioned the most common classifications (regular Vs. irregular. long Vs short) see here for example: vocabularyhome.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/… and here: image.slidesharecdn.com/…. I'm sorry for that I wasn't clear and for the trouble. Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 17:52
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    I think Mari has answered the question here: adjectives that form the comparative synthetically and adjectives that form the comparative analytically.
    – James K
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 17:56
  • @subtle_sibling well "short and long adjectives" (as per your link) is not far off from being the truth, but perhaps a little too simplistic. For example, would you say that "boring" was a short or long adjective? To me it's short but if I count the number of syllables I understand that it belongs to that tricky area where a disyllabic adjective can either follow the one syllable or the three syllable "rule", so then I have to see if it ends with the letter "Y" if it does, choosing the right comparative form is easier :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 17:58
  • @Mari-LouA I'm very confused about the definition of long and short, because in some of the materials I saw that they consider 2 syllables as short and some of them consider only one syllable as short. "Cambridge grammar and vocabulary for first" for example doesn't use at all in these terms of short and long. instead, it uses one, two, and three / four syllables. Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 18:21
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    In the meantime I found a respected reference that refer to both in the same terms, so I can say that your answer is what I looked for. Thank you! cambridge.org/core/journals/english-language-and-linguistics/… Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 2:14

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