21A: Comparative Adjectives

In this chapter, you will learn how to form and use the comparatives/superlatives of adjectives and adverbs, which enable you to compare things to each other in different ways. In this lesson, you will start with the comparative of adjectives. Look at the following sentences below. They mean roughly the same thing in both Ancient Greek and Modern Greek, but they do not show comparison in exactly the same ways. What is different?

  • Οὗτός ἐστι δικαιότερος/μᾶλλον δίκαιος ἐκείνου.  → Αυτός είναι δικαιότερος/πιο δίκαιος από εκείνον. (“This man is more just than that man.”)
  • Δαρείου και Παρυσάτιδος γίγνονται παῖδες δύο, πρεσβύτερος μὲν Ἀρταξέρξης, νεώτερος δὲ Κῦρος. → Δηλαδή πρεσβύτερος/μεγαλύτερος είναι ο Αρταξέρης και νεότερος ο Κύρος. (“Two children are born to Darius and
  • Ὦ παῖ, γίγνου εὐτυχέστερος τοῦ πατρὸς. → Παιδί μου, να είσαι ευτυχέστερος από τον πατέρα σου.

From the examples above, there are four important things for you to observe:

  1. The form of some comparative adjectives is the same both in Ancient Greek and in Modern Greek, e.g. δικαιότερος/ευτυχέστερος. Although these adjectives are not pronounced the same way anymore, they are still written the same way.
  2. In some comparatives, the Modern Greek comparative changes a bit, e.g. νεώτερος in Ancient Greek → νεότερος in Modern Greek. 
  3. Just like in Ancient Greek, you can make comparisons by using comparative adjectives, but also periphrastically, e.g. δικαιότερος but also πιο δίκαιος; both mean “more just.”
  4. Sometimes a different adjective is used, e.g. πρεσβύτερος in Ancient Greek → μεγαλύτερος in Modern Greek (“elder, older”), but this is a matter of vocabulary. 

In Modern Greek, each adjective group has its own set of fairly regular patterns for forming comparative adjectives. Group B forms the comparatives in -ότερος/-ότερη/-ότερο. Group Γ1 forms the comparative in -έστερος/-έστερη/-έστερο. Groups Γ4 and Γ5 form the comparative in -ύτερος/-ύτερη/-ύτερο. Finally, Groups Γ3 and Γ4 form their comparative periphrastically.

Group Βσοφός-σοφή-τοφό → ο σοφότερος-η σοφότερη-το σοφότερο
ωραίος-ωραία-ωραίο → ο ωραιότερος-η ωραιότερη-το ωραιότερο
Group Γ1σαφής-σαφής-σαφές → ο σαφέστερος-η σαφέστερη-το σαφέστερο
Groups Γ4/Γ5ταχύς-ταχεία-ταχύ → ταχύτερος-ταχύτερη-ταχύτερο
Groups Γ3/Γ4ευγνώμων-ευγνώμων-ευγνώμον → πιο ευγνώμων-ευγνώμων-ευγνώμον
ενδιαφέρων-ενδιαφέρουσα-ενδιαφέρον → πιο ενδιαφέρων-ουσα-ον 

Good news! Note that, for adjectives in group B, you do not need to choose between -ότερος and -ώτερος, as you do in Ancient Greek.

To form the periphrastic comparison, use the adverb πιο and the adjective in the positive degree. The adverb πιο comes from the medieval πλιὸ, and ultimately Ancient Greek πλέον (“more”). To say this in Modern Greek, you could say περισσότερο or πιο πολύ. In Ancient Greek, the relevant adverb is the μᾶλλον, which is the comparative of the adverb μάλα

In summary, Ancient Greek and Modern Greek can form comparatives either by using an adjective’s comparative form or periphrastically:

  • Ancient Greek: δίκαιος → δικαιότερος and μᾶλλον δίκαιος; νέος → νεώτερος and μᾶλλον νέος
  • Modern Greek: δίκαιος → δικαιότερος and πιο δίκαιος; νέος → νεότερος and πιο νέος

Take a look at the endings of comparative adjectives in both Ancient Greek and Modern Greek: ὁ δικαιότερος/ἡ δικαιοτέρα/τὸ δικαιότερον becomes ο δικαιότερος/η δικαιότερη/το δικαιότερον. Note that the in the ending of the Ancient Greek feminine becomes in Modern Greek. The accent, too, has shifted one syllable backwards. Moreover, the neuter loses its final.