Irregular comparatives and superlatives

Some comparative and superlative adjectives and adverbs are irregular.

Some change only slightly by adding an umlaut when an ending is added, eg:

  • krank > kränker > am kränksten – sick > sicker > sickest (adverb)
  • stark > stärker > am stärksten – strong > stronger > strongest (adverb)
  • groß > größer > am größten – big/tall > bigger/taller > biggest/tallest (adverb)

Meine Tante ist die größte in unserer Familie. – My aunt is the tallest in our family. (adjective)

While others change quite considerably, just like in English, eg:

  • gut > besser > der beste – good > better > best (adjective)
  • viel > mehr > am meisten – much > more > most (adverb)

Here is a list of some of the most common irregular comparatives and superlatives.

hoch (high)höher (higher)am höchsten (highest)
gut (good)besser (better)am besten (best)
lang (long)länger (longer)am längsten (longest)
kurz (short)kürzer (shorter)am kürzesten (shortest)
gern (like)lieber (prefer)am liebsten (favourite)
nah (near)näher (nearer)am nächsten (nearest)
viel (many)mehr (more)am meisten (most)

Look at these examples of the irregular comparatives and superlatives in use.

  • Die Wildspitze ist hoch, aber der Großglockner ist der höchste Berg in Österreich. – The Wildspitze is high but the Großglockner is the highest mountain in Austria.
  • Meiner Meinung nach ist Bayern München besser als Bayer Leverkusen. Aber am besten finde ich Borussia Dortmund. – In my opinion, Bayern Munich is better than Bayer Leverkusen. But for me, Borussia Dortmund is the best.
  • Ich esse gern Kekse, aber am liebsten esse ich Schokolade. – I like eating biscuits, but most of all I like eating chocolate.

Translate the following irregular comparisons and superlatives into German.

  • I like playing tennis but I prefer playing football.
  • The film is good, but the book was better.
  • The hotel is near but the youth hostel is nearer.
  • Her hair is long but I have the longest.
  • Ich spiele gern Tennis aber ich spiele lieber Fußball.
  • Der Film ist gut aber das Buch war besser.
  • Das Hotel ist nah aber die Jugendherberge ist näher.
  • Ihre Haare sind lang aber ich habe die längsten.

Did you know?

Oktoberfest, often referred to in Germany as Wiesn, is an annual festival that takes place in the Bavarian city of München (Munich) from the end of September until the first week of October. It's the largest 'people's festival' in the world – das größte Volksfest der Welt.

The celebrations attract over six million visitors each year. The festival consists of funfair rides and food stalls, selling local delicacies.

In 2005, the concept of die ruhige Wiesn – the quiet Oktoberfest – was introduced to make the festival more family-friendly. Traditional folk music is played softly until 18.00. This rule means that the traditional beer-tent atmosphere has been maintained and can be enjoyed by both young and old, just like in countless beer gardens the length and breadth of Germany.

James Dagwell discovers Munich's "outdoor living rooms"