edited by Meagan Ayer et al.

Comparatives and Superlatives

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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.

quam plūrimī
as many as possible

quam maximē potest (maximē quam potest)
as much as can be

vel minimus
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.

summus mōns
the top of the hill

in ultimā plateā
at the end of the place

prior āctiō
the earlier part of an action

reliquī captīvī
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.

Suggested Citation

Meagan Ayer, Allen and Greenough’s New Latin Grammar for Schools and Colleges. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries, 2014. ISBN: 978-1-947822-04-7. http://dcc.dickinson.edu/grammar/latin/comparatives-and-superlatives