edited by Meagan Ayer et al.
Comparatives and Superlatives
291. Besides their regular signification (as in English), the forms of comparison are used as follows.
a. The comparative denotes a considerable or excessive degree of a quality.
brevior rather short
audācior too bold
b. The superlative (of eminence) often denotes a very high degree of a quality without implying a distinct comparison.
mōns altissimus a very high mountain
Note— The Superlative of Eminence is much used in complimentary references to persons and may often be translated by the simple positive.
c. With quam, vel, or ūnus the superlative denotes the highest possible degree.
as many as possible
quam maximē potest (maximē quam potest)
as much as can be
the very least
vir ūnus doctissimus
the one most learned man
Note 1— A high degree of a quality is also denoted by such adverbs as admodum, valdē (very),or by per or prae in composition (§ 267.d.1).
valdē malus very bad = pessimus
permāgnus very great
praealtus very high (or deep)
Note 2— A low degree of a quality is indicated by sub in composition.
subrūsticus rather clownish
or by minus (not very); minimē (not at all); parum (not enough); nōn satis (not much)
Note 3— The comparative mâiōrēs (for mâiōrēs nātū greater by birth) has the special signification of ancestors; so minōrēs often means descendants.
For the Superlative with quisque, see § 313.b. For the construction of a substantive after a Comparative, see §§ 406 - 407; for that of a clause, see § 535.c and § 571.a. For the Ablative of Degree of Difference with a Comparative (multō etc.), see § 414.
292.When two qualities of an object are compared, both adjectives are in the Comparative.
longior quam lātior aciēs erat (Liv. 27.48)
the line was longer than it was broad (or, rather long than broad).
vērior quam grātior (id. 22.38)
more true than agreeable
Note— So also with adverbs.
libentius quam vērius (Mil. 78)
with more freedom than truth
a. Where magis is used, both adjectives are in the positive.
disertus magis quam sapiēns (Att. 10.1.4)
eloquent rather than wise
clārī magis quam honestī (Iug. 8)
more renowned than honorable
Note— A comparative and a positive, or even two positives, are sometimes connected by quam. This use is rarer and less elegant than those before noticed.
clārīs mâiōribus quam vetustīs (Tac. Ann. 4.61)
of a family more famous than old
vehementius quam cautē (Tac. Agr. 4)
with more fury than good heed
293. Superlatives (and more rarely Comparatives) denoting order and succession—also vmedius, [vcēterus], vreliquus—usually designate not what object, but what part of it, is meant.
the top of the hill
in ultimā plateā
at the end of the place
the earlier part of an action
the rest of the prisoners
in colle mediō (B. G. 1.24)
half way up the hill (on the middle of the hill)
inter cēteram plānitiem (Iug. 92)
in a region elsewhere level
Note— A similar use is found in sērā [multā] nocte (late at night), and the like. But medium viae (the middle of the way) multum diēī (much of the day) also occur.