Adjectives Grammar Index Page

Degrees of Adjectives

Latin adjectives can appear in three different forms, called degrees.

I. Positive Degree

This is the form in which an adjective is listed in a vocabulary or dictionary, such as:

acer, acris, acre - keen, sharp iratus, a, um - angry pinguis, pingue - fat
bonus, a, um - good laetus, a, um - happy prudens, prudentis - wise, sensible
celer, celeris, celere - swift magnus, a, um - large, great pulcher, pulchra, pulchrum - beautiful
facilis, facile - easy nobilis, nobile - noble stultus, a, um - stupid

Some of these adjectives belong to the first and second declension and some to the third declension. They never leave their declensions while they are positive degree adjectives, no matter what the declension of the noun that they modify. They must always agree in gender, case and number with their noun, and they may happen to agree in declension too. Thus, you will see such combinations as:

1st/2nd declension adjective & 1st, 2nd, 3rd declension nouns

3rd declension adjective & 1st, 2nd, 3rd declension plural nouns

II. Comparative Degree

In English, represented by the "more ----- " or "-----er" forms. In Latin, by endings that incorporate -ior or -ius. To form the comparative, add -ior to the stem. The only exception is that -ius, instead of -ior, is added to the stem for the neuter nominative and accusative singular forms. The comparative adjective in Latin is always declined in the 3rd declension:

iratior, iratius
- angrier laetior, laetius
- happier stultior, stultius
- more foolish
prudentior, -ius
- more sensible pinguior, pinguius
- fatter nobilior, nobilius
- nobler
facilior, facilius
- easier pulchrior, pulchrius
- more beautiful celerior, celerius
- swifter
acrior, acrius
- keener  

Notice above that pulcher and acer drop out -e-, so that the stem is pulchr- or acr-, and the comparative form is built on that stem. Magnus and bonus, two very common adjective, have irregular forms that are discussed on the Irregular adjective page. Remember, a comparative form belongs ONLY to the third declension, regardless of the declension of its positive form. Examine the declensionined noun-adjective pairs below:

        Masculine Feminine Neuter
nom. novior vir novior femina novius tempus
gen. novioris viri novioris feminae novioris temporis
dat. noviori viro noviori feminae noviori tempori
acc. noviorem virum noviorem feminam novius tempus
abl. noviore viro noviore feminâ noviore tempori
nom. noviores viri noviores feminae noviora tempora
gen. noviorum viriorum noviorum feminarum noviorum temporum
dat. novioribus virîs novioribus feminîs novioribus temporibus
acc. noviores viros noviores feminas noviora tempora
abl. novioribus virîs novioribus feminîs novioribus temporibus

Often a comparison will contain quam because it is stating that one person or thing is more "------" than another person or thing is: A rabbit is faster than a tortoise (is) = Lepus celerior est quam testudo (est). Keep that in mind when you are translating the practice sentences below.

III. Superlative Degree

In English, represented by "most -----" or "very -----" or "-----est". In Latin, the superlative is indicated by ----issimus,-a,-um, ----illimus,-a,-um, or ----errimus,-a,-um. A superlative adjective in Latin is ALWAYS declined in the 1st and 2nd declensions. To form the superlative, add -issimus to the stem of the adjective. Decline the new adjective like "altus". There are two variations on this rule:

If the adjective ends in the nominative masculine singular in -er, double the r and then add -imus,-a,-um. For example, celer becomes celerrimus.

If the adjective is facilis, difficilis, similis, dissimilis, gracilis or humilis, double the l and then add -imus,-a,-um. For example, difficillimus. (All other adjective whose positive form ends in -lis will add the normal ending -issimus.)

iratissimus, -a, -um - very angry laetissimus, -a, -um - happiest stultissimus, -a, -um - most foolish
prudentissimus, -a, -um - most wise pinguissimus, -a, -um - fattest nobilissimus,-a, -um - very noble
facillimus, -a, -um - easiest pulcherrimus, -a, -um - most beautiful celerrimus, -a, -um - swiftest
acerrimus, -a, -um - very keen  

The superlative forms of magnus and bonus also have irregular spellings and are discussed on the Irregular adjective page.

Practice Sentences

Translate the following sentences.

  1. Mercator est tristis; senex est tristissimus.
  2. Canis erat ferox; porcus erat ferior; leo erat ferocissimus.
  3. Amicus fabulam longissimam narravit.
  4. Murmillones erant fortes sed retiarii erant fortissimi.
  5. Urbs est pulchra sed mons est pulcherrimus.
  6. Nos Romani sumus fortiores quam vos Graeci.
  7. Aurelia irata est sed Cornelius iratior quam Aurelia.
  8. Melissa est pulcherrima; Cornelia est pulchrior quam Metella. Estne Cornelia pulchrior quam Melissa?
  9. Cerberus est fortissimus canis.
  10. Iovis est potentior quam Iuno; est potentissimus omnium deorum.

Answer Key - Check your work

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