Italian/Comparatives and superlatives

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In English, the comparative and the superlative can be created both by adding the modifiers more, less, most, least or by adding the suffixes -er, -est. In Italian, since suffixes of the kind are not added to regular adverbs and adjectives, the only way to create comparatives and superlatives is to add modifiers like più or meno (equivalent to more,less...).

Along with articles, adjectives must have the same gender and number of the referred noun.


Comparatives / comparative[edit]

Basic structure:[edit]

...Più/meno + adjective/adverb(or noun) + di/che...

Examples

Marco è più alto di Luca              (Marco is taller than Luca)
Marco corre più velocemente di Luca   (Marco runs faster than Luca)
Pescare è meno faticoso che nuotare   (Fishing is less tiring than swimming)
Quell'albero ha meno di 100 anni      (Literary: That tree has less than 100 years)

DI or CHE[edit]

The word than can be translated with both di and che. There are some rules that determine which is to be used.

Che is to be used when comparing two
  • adjectives referred to a person or thing
  • infinitives
  • participles
  • nouns referred to a person or thing
  • nouns or pronouns preceded by a preposition

Examples

L'acqua è più rinfrescanteadj che saporitaadj   (Water is more refreshing than tasty)
Pescareinf è più rilassante che nuotareinf      (Fishing is more relaxing than swimming)
Ora ho meno setenoun che famenoun               (Literally: Right now I have less thirst than hunger)
Mi sono divertito di più aprep Milano che aprep Roma      (I had a better time in Milan than in Rome)
Di is to be used when Che is not compulsory, such as
  • when followed by a number
  • when comparing two objects A&B using the structure: [A] + verb + più/meno + adj/adv(or noun) + DI + [B]
  • when using the words "più/meno di quanto + verb" or "più/meno di quel che + verb"
  • when comparing two improper nouns (the 'di' then articulates)

Examples

Quell' albero ha meno di 100 anni           (that tree is less than 100 years old)
Marco[A] è più alto di Luca[B]  (Marco is taller than Luca)
Luca è meno alto di quanto pensassi         (Literally: Luca is less tall than I thought)
Marco è più alto di quel che ricordavo      (Marco is taller than I remembered)
La macchina è meno cara della casa                (The car is less expensive than the house)

Superlatives / Superlativi[edit]

In Italian, as in most romance languages, the elative and superlative forms are joined in the Superlativo, which can be of two kinds: Superlativo relativo (comparative) or Superlativo assoluto (absolute).

Superlativo relativo[edit]

It represents a general quality that, even if expressed at its highest level, is still compared with that of other objects (more than 2). It is formed simply by using più or meno between the determinative article and the adjective.
Examples

Marco è il più alto di loro                       (Marco is the tallest of them)
Marco è il più alto tra loro                      (Marco is the tallest among them)
(Loro) sono le meno chiaccherone della classe     (They are the least talkative in the class)

Superlativo assoluto[edit]

It represents a general quality at its maximum level (like the elative). Normally, it is formed by adding the suffix -issimo to the adjective's ending. The end of the suffix indicates the gender and number of the noun it refers to, therefore:

  • -issimo masculine, singular
  • -issimi masculine, plural
  • -issima feminine, singular
  • -issime feminine, plural

Examples

Marco è altissimo              (Marco is very tall)
Quell'aereo è velocissimo      (That plane is very fast)
(Tu) sei molto carina           (Literally: You are very nice)

Another way to form the absolute superlative is to put words such as molto, tanto... (very, much...) before the adjective.

Irregular forms[edit]

There are some adjectives/adverbs that have their own form of superlative and comparativo di maggioranza (comparative using più and not meno):

Positive Comparativo di maggioranza Absolute superlative
Buono good Migliore better Ottimo best
Cattivo bad Peggiore worse Pessimo worst
Grande big Maggiore bigger Massimo biggest
Piccolo small Minore smaller Minimo smallest
Alto tall Superiore taller Sommo tallest
Basso low Inferiore lower Infimo lowest
Bene (adv) well Meglio (adv) better Benissimo (adv) very well
Male (adv) badly Peggio (adv) worse Malissimo (adv) very badly

Even if an irregular form is present, most of these adjectives can be used with their regular one. As a matter of fact, you will never hear an Italian addressing to Marco and say: "Marco è sommo".


There are also words deriving from Latin terms ending with "-er", which kept a superlative form similar to the old Latin one. The most "common" are:

Positive Absolute Superlative
Acre (acrid) Acerrimo
Misero (poor) Miserrimo
Integro (integral) Integerrimo
Celebre (renowned) Celeberrimo
Salubre (healthy) Saluberrimo
Tetro (gloomy) Teterrimo
Benefico (beneficent) Beneficentissimo
Magnifico (magnificent) Magnificentissimo