In Portuguese, adjectives can change depending on the gender and number and, similarly to English, they also have different graus (degrees). They are: the grau normal positive degree; the grau comparativo comparative degree; and the grau superlativo superlative degree.
Grau Normal – Positive Degree
This is the basic form of each adjective. We use it to qualify a noun without making any abstract or concrete comparisons.
Grau Comparativo – Comparative Degree
You use the comparativo when you want to compare attributes between two beings/objects or different attributes of the same being/object.
In the first sentence, we’re comparing the happiness of two people. In the second, we’re comparing two different attributes of the same person.
The grau comparativo is further divided into:
comparativo de superioridade (superiority), which is formed by placing the adverb mais before the adjective and the conjunctions que or do que after.
comparativo de inferioridade (inferiority), which is formed by placing the adverb menos before the adjective and the conjunctions que or do que after.
comparativo de igualdade (equality), which is formed by placing the adverb tão before the adjective and the conjunctions como or quanto after.
Grau Superlativo – Superlative Degree
The superlative degree is used when the attribute we’re referring to is present at a level greater than normal. It’s the only degree where adjectives can be modified, instead of complemented, by other words.
The superlative is further divided in two forms:
superlativo absoluto (absolute) – which is used, for example, when someone possesses a high level of a certain quality;
superlativo relativo (relative) – which is used when you’re comparing that someone to a group of people regarding the same quality
There are two possible ways to write an adjective in the superlativo absoluto and both have the same meaning. The first way is by adding an adverb that indicates excess before the adjective, and the most common one is muito.
With many adjectives, however, that transformation will deviate slightly. Let’s take a look at a few cases in which that happens:
if the adjective ends with a vowel, you need to remove that vowel before adding -íssimo:
if the adjective ends in -vel, you remove those three letters and add the suffix -bilíssimo instead:
if it ends with a -z, you remove it and add -císsimo:
The superlativo relativo is a little simpler, as it just involves some slight modifications to the comparative form (adding a definite article (o, a) before the comparative form and using de at the end). There are two forms:
superlativo relativo de superioridade – which is formed by placing a definite article before the comparativo de superioridade. For example:
superlativo relativo de inferioridade – which is formed by placing a definite article before the comparativo de inferioridade. For example:
So remember, it’s pretty similar to the comparativo, but the superlativo relativo structure is: definite article + comparativo de superioridade/inferioridade + the conjunction de.
There are a few very common Portuguese adjectives which are exceptions to the rules we’ve just covered. They use a completely different word in their comparative and superlative forms, similar to how English uses the word “better” instead of “more good than”, and “the best” instead of “the most good”.
|Grau Normal||Grau Comparativo||English Equivalent|
Note: Pequeno is not a total exception, because the construction mais pequeno que is also absolutely acceptable and probably more often used than menor.
|Grau Normal||Grau Superlativo||English Equivalent|
|bom/boa||ótimo / o melhor||the best|
|mau/má||péssimo / o pior||the worst|
|grande||máximo / o maior||the biggest|
|pequeno/pequena||mínimo / o menor||the smallest|