Adjectives with no comparative or superlative forms

Some English adjectives which were once used in the comparative degree have lost their comparative meaning. They are now used as positive adjectives. Examples are: former, latter, elder, upper, inner, outer and utter.

  • The former part of the story is more interesting than the latter part.
  • He has an elder brother.
  • I think we should paint the inner walls another color.
  • This is utter nonsense.

Certain comparatives which have their origin in Latin have no positive or superlative degree. There are twelve in all. All of them end in -or, not -er. Five of these twelve comparatives have lost their comparative meaning and are now used as positive adjectives. They are: inferior, exterior, ulterior, major and minor.

  • It is a matter of minor importance.
  • I have no ulterior motive in offering you help.
  • The exterior walls of the structure is made of stone.

The remaining seven are still used as comparative adjectives. Note that they are followed by to instead of than. Examples are: inferior, superior, prior, anterior, posterior, senior and junior.

  • This paper is inferior to that. (NOT This paper is inferior than that.)
  • He is junior to me.
  • His colleagues are senior to him.