See this video (a captioned children's story) at 1:34 (1 minute & 34 seconds)

They say, "He becomes even more richer than ever before"

Is more richer idiomatic?

Why don't they say "even much richer" or "even far richer"?

  • This is probably taken from Joseph Jacobs' English Fairy Tales. They may have misquoted him. There is no way to tell what version of his fairy tales they used or if his version had this mistake. – Lambie Oct 14 '19 at 15:22

The video seems to me to be poorly made, and I found several more strange errors over the course of a minute or two, so I think "more richer" is just a mistake. For example, here is the first sentence of the video, with errors marked:

Once there was a rich merchant, [1] he decided to load all his wealth into his two ships to [2] the [3] other lands to make more wealth, but alas they [4] drowned, leaving him poor, [5] all he was left with was his little son and his [6] only land left.

[1] Comma splice (run-on sentence).
[2] Misuse of "to"; we don't load "to" somewhere.
[3] "The" other lands, but no other lands have previously been introduced.
[4] Ships don't "drown", they "sink".
[5] Comma splice (run-on sentence).
[6] Should be "only his land left". Also, repeating "left" is awkward.

All except [1] and [5] are errors that native speakers do not make.

A slightly ungrammatical or nonstandard phrase like "more richer" can be a playful abuse of grammar for rhetorical effect ("catachresis"), but I don't think that's what's happening in this case.

I think learning English from fairy tales and nursery rhymes is a very good idea. But they need to be in real English, and preferably children's stories or rhymes that most speakers (in at least one country) are familiar with.

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  • These are Joseph Jacobs' English Fairy Tales. It could be any number of things. – Lambie Oct 14 '19 at 15:24
  • A quick google search didn't turn up a version by Joseph Jacobs. But it's clear that Jacobs really knew English and the author of the script for this video did not. – Ben Kovitz Oct 14 '19 at 15:45
  • A quick google search is not sufficient. We cannot see the origin of the YouTube link. The You Tube video proves nothing one way or the other. – Lambie Oct 14 '19 at 23:11

In the cited context, even is an optional "intensifier" (in He got [even] richer, the implication is he was already quite rich before the later increase in wealth). But whether or not even is included doesn't affect the grammatical issue as regards how English expresses comparatives and superlatives.

Briefly, monosyllabic adjectives usually take the suffixes -er, est, whereas [most] disyllabic adjectives (apart from those ending in -y), express the same thing using more, most. But you have to choose one or the other (richer or more rich, not more richer).

OP's "double superlative" example is a relatively uncommon "mistake" that may pass unnoticed by some, while driving others to distraction. Personally don't really think it was ever common in any specific regional or socio-economic dialectal communities. It's just that since all (adult) native speakers should instantly recognize the "error", it's a convenient shorthand way for writers to imply speaker is uneducated.

In practice the usage more richer is semantically equivalent to richerer (both repeat the "comparativizing" format). That specific quirky morphological form isn't so common with rich, but it does come into play more often with irregularly-formed comparatives such as good, better, best.

Hence you'll find many written instances of even triple superlatives, such as more betterer. But such usages would almost always be facetious (speaker is just "playing with language"). Effectively, deliberately applying the kind of "syntactic logic" that a child might make when first discovering the two different ways of forming superlatives, before realizing that they're mutually incompatible (and that -er, -est can't be "intensified" by repetition as in the "childish" usage You're my bestest friend).

But OP's Why don't they say "even much richer" or "even far richer", involves a different issue. They're both syntactically invalid for most contexts, because even, much and far are mutually incompatible "intensifiers" for whatever "comparative adjective" follows. Valid permutations are...

He becomes rich (by implication, he wasn't rich before)
He becomes more rich (by implication, he was already somewhat rich)
He becomes richer (that "already rich" implication applies to the following "emphatic" versions)
He becomes much more rich
He becomes far more rich
He becomes even more rich
He becomes much richer
He becomes far richer
He becomes even richer

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  • 1
    It can also be used as a rhetorical device. On Monday, he won a bet and become richer. On Friday, he won the lottery and become even more richer. In the right context, it's not a mistake at all, but a deliberate use of something that would otherwise be a mistake. In the example I gave, the sentence would lose its intent if more richer weren't used. – Jason Bassford Oct 14 '19 at 14:23
  • @JasonBassford: Your On Friday, he won the lottery and become even more richer example is just another "mistake" of the same type. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Oct 14 '19 at 15:33
  • ...I can contrive a context where at least one of these "normally invalid" permutations looks "okay", but it might be a bit of a "use / mention" situation. Are lottery winners always much happier? I was a millionaire before I won the lottery, so I'm not even far richer than I used to be, let alone far happier. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Oct 14 '19 at 15:39
  • 1
    This is exactly the sort of mistake that a child might make when learning how to form superlatives. I say that because my son used to do it all the time when he was around 4 or 5 years old. It was very logical, so as a parent it was difficult to explain to him why you don't do that. – Richter65 Oct 14 '19 at 16:29
  • @Richter65: Exactly! It's lamentable that OP has ended up trying to learn adult English from a source that's both semantically and syntactically "childish". I'm all for learning English the way a native speaker child learns it (get used to using simple vocabulary and syntax before tackling the more difficult aspects). But that shouldn't imply also being exposed to childish mistakes without a concerned parent or teacher around to flag up any errors (which being superficially logical, may be much more harderer to abandon later if they're used initially without challenge! :) – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Oct 14 '19 at 16:42

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