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Grammar: Comparative and superlative

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De trappen van vergelijking

The "steps of comparison", as they are referred to in Dutch, are used to turn an adjective (good) into a comparative (better) or a superlative (best). These are formed by adding suffixes to the adjective, much like in English. This process is mostly regular, with a few important exceptions.


Comparative

The comparative, as the name implies, compares the properties of two objects, or of the same object in different situations or at different times. In English, the comparative is sometimes created with the adverb more. That is not the case in Dutch, where it is usually constructed by adding the suffix -er or -ere, following the standard rules for adjectives about the -e at the end. As usual, the consonant at the end of the adjective's stem might double or change, as a result of the Dutch spelling rules. If the stem ends on the letter r, then the suffix becomes -der or -dere, to make pronunciation easier. Some examples are below:

  • De snellere jongen - The faster boy
  • Een nog sneller meisje - An even faster girl
  • Het meisje is sneller dan de jongen. - The girl is faster than the boy.

  • Duurdere wijn - More expensive wine


Superlative

The highest step is the superlative, which compares an object with all other objects, or with all other situations or points in time. Again, Dutch does not normally use the adverb most, but adds the suffix -st or -ste. The superlative must always follow a definite article (de or het).

  • De snelste jongen - The fastest boy
  • De duurste wijn - The most expensive wine

  • De jongen is het snelst. - The boy is the fastest.

Note that even though jongen is a de-word, the superlative in that last sentence becomes het snelst. The reason is that it is a predicate adjective (it comes after the noun), which does not reflect the gender (de/het) of the noun. However, it is also allowed to say:

  • De jongen is de snelste. - The boy is the fastest.

In this case it is implied that the noun jongen is repeated after the superlative: "De jongen is de snelste (jongen)."


Graag - Liever - Liefst

Graag is an adverb, and one of those annoying Dutch words that does not have an English equivalent. It tells you that the subject enjoys performing the action that is described by the verb, often translated as "like to" + infinitive.

Strangely enough, graag has a comparative and a superlative form: liever and liefst. These mean, respectively, that you prefer doing something over something else, and that you prefer it over anything else. You can translate them as "like more to" and "like best to", or by using some form of "to prefer".


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1 year ago

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