English Grammar Help: Clearer or More Clear?

Anyone studying English will tell you that it’s not the most straightforward language in the world. There are plenty of grammar rules to learn, but the English language frequently likes to break them! One area that causes particular confusion for people studying English: the comparative/superlative. But don’t worry – we’re here to make things clearer. Or should that be more clear? Our guide will help you find out!

Let’s first take a look at what we mean by comparatives and superlatives.

Comparative adjectives compare two things:

I am happier now

I need a bigger suitcase

My sandwich is tastier than yours

Superlative adjectives compare more than two things, and we use the with superlatives:

John is the tallest man in town – here we’re comparing all the men in town, not just two

It was the happiest day of my life

Sirius is the brightest star in the sky

Now, the basic rules are:

One syllable adjectives take ‘-er’ to form comparatives

Clear > clearer
Fit > fitter
Tall > taller
Bright > brighter

And ‘-est’ to form superlatives

Clear > clearer > clearest
Fit > fitter > fittest
Tall > taller > tallest
Bright > brighter > brightest

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Two syllable adjectives ending in consonant + y take ‘-ier’ to form comparatives

Happy > happier
Pretty > prettier
Hairy > hairier
Lovely > lovelier

And ‘-iest’ to form superlatives

Happy > happier > happiest
Pretty > prettier > prettiest
Hairy > hairier > hairiest
Lovely > lovelier > loveliest

Multi-syllable adjectives take ‘more’ to form comparatives

Incredible > more incredible – not incredibler
Horrible > more horrible – not horribler
Terrifying > more terrifying – not terrifyinger

So, clearer or more clear?

The basic rules tell us that because clear is a one syllable adjective there is no need to use ‘more.’ But the reality is that in everyday usage, both are perfectly acceptable, and you’ll often hear and see both being used. Do a Google search and you’ll find millions of uses of both.

It’s really down to your personal preference which one you choose, and different scenarios may favour one over the other. ‘Clearer’ tends to be used more conversationally:

“Thanks, you’ve helped make it clearer for me”

While more clear might be considered to be more formal:

“Thank you, you have helped to make it more clear for me”

But clear is a special case. In most instances the basic rule still stands – a one syllable adjective uses ‘-er’ while longer adjectives require the addition of ‘more.’

Grammar alert! More clearer

One thing to remember is that you either use ‘-er’ or ‘more’ but never both. So you would never say:

More clearer – clearer already means ‘more clear’, so this would be like saying ‘more more clear’, which is incorrect

More clearest – clearest already means the ‘most clear’, and you can’t get and clearer than that, so you cannot have ‘more most clear’

Well, have we made things any clearer for you? We hope so! What comparatives have confused you in the past? Do you have any questions that we can help to clear up for you? Join EF English Live, take an online English class and ask one of our teachers.