Which comparative expressions are academic?

This is the third of five chapters about Comparatives and Superlatives. To complete this reader, read each chapter carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.   

– Explore negation and pre- and post-modification for comparatives

– Provide a list of useful academic adjectives and adverbs

– Give examples for twelve useful comparative academic sentences

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Chapter 3

While comparative expressions such as ‘China is bigger than India’ are more commonly used in informal speech than in academic writing, there are still a wide variety of expressions that may be useful for those needing English for academic purposes – particularly when describing data or writing compare and contrast essays. This third chapter on the topic therefore aims to provide some of the most useful comparative expressions for the reader, outlining a list of common academic adjectives and adverbs. Before providing such language however, there are three considerations absent from Chapter 2 that should be discussed first.


1. Negating Comparative Expressions

We already know that an adjective or adverb may by used to create comparative expressions either by adding the suffix ‘-er’ or by preceding that word with ‘more’. While such constructions allow for comparisons in which the property being described is seen to be increasing, how do we form opposite constructions? There are two simple rules to follow here, both of which rely on analysing the number of syllables within the adjective or adverb:

i) for adjectives/adverbs of one syllable, use the expression ‘not as X as’:

ii) for adjectives/adverbs of two syllables or more, include the word ‘less’:

2. Pre-modifying Comparative Expressions

As well as being negated, comparative expressions may also be strengthened or emphasised by preceding these constructions with words such as ‘a lot’, ‘even’, ‘far’, ‘much’ and ‘rather’:

3. Post-modifying Comparative Expressions

Likewise, comparative expressions may be strengthened or emphasised by following the constructions with the phrase ‘than ever’:

Finally, in comparative constructions that use ‘than’, students should (a) avoid repeating any personal pronouns that refer to impersonal subjects and (b) avoid including any auxiliary verbs that are found in passive constructions:

Which adjectives and adverbs are useful for academics?

We’ve provided more than thirty adjectives and fifteen adverbs below that may be useful for you when forming academic comparative constructions:


abstract, adequate, beneficial, certain, competitive, comprehensive, consistent, detailed, distinct, essential, favourable, frequent, important, influential, innovative, likely, misleading, obvious, practical, productive, realistic, salient, scientific, significant, social, suitable, sustainable, unlikely, useful, valuable, widespread


accurately, carefully, clearly, commonly, directly, effectively, frequently, notably, quickly, readily, significantly, strongly, successfully, unevenly, widely


Which comparative expressions are useful for academics?

Below are some expressions that you may wish to use or modify within your own academic writing. By paying careful attention to the twelve comparative expressions that have been bolded for you below, you may notice that academic expressions such as these rarely (if ever) use the suffix ‘-er’:


“There’s nothing more abstract than a high-concept theory.”

“The results of these studies were more beneficial for structural theorists.”

“This line chart more clearly shows an increase in carbon emissions.”

“Smith’s (2010) study was far less comprehensive than his later (2016) study.”

“This graph shows less favourable increases in greenhouse gases.”

“Modern research more frequently uses digital methods and techniques.”

“The more innovative of the two methods was used for this study.”

“This is because it was less practical to triangulate the data.”

“However, these results are more significant for three important reasons.”

“Energy is becoming more and more sustainable in developed countries.”

“Wealth is now more unevenly distributed than it was twenty years ago.”

“The indigenous population is now far less widespread than it used to be.”


Having dealt with comparatives in some detail, Chapters 4 and 5 next deal with these same concepts and expressions but for superlative constructions.

3 of 5 Chapters Completed


Once you’ve completed all five chapters about comparatives and superlatives, you might also wish to download our beginner, intermediate and advanced worksheets to test your progress or print for your students. These professional PDF worksheets can be easily accessed for only a few Academic Marks.

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