Caibidil a Dó: The adjective (an Aidiacht)

Comparative forms (an Chomparáid)

The comparative
    - regular form
    - irregular form
    - comparative with mó and lú
    - the suffix -de
use of the comparative
  predicative and adverbial use
    - dependent comparative
    - autonomous comparative
  attributive use
    - autonomous comparative and indef. noun
    - every other case
    - definite noun
the equative

the comparative (an chomparáid)

In Irish there are only two grades of comparison (céimeanna comparáide):

(The differentiation found in many books, and even grammar books, of the comparatives with níos of a "superlative" using is too simplified and just wrong)

The regular form of the comparative form (foirm bhreischéime)

The regular form is the feminine genitive singular form  of the adjective (see declension)
Here again as a rundown:

The irregular form:

There are only a few irregular comparative forms:

English positive comparative
good maith fearr
bad dona measa
evil olc measa
small beag
big mór
long fada faide,
pretty breá breátha
hot te teo
simple furasta fusa
much iomaí lia
close fogas foisce
nice ionúin ansa, ionúine
likely  dócha dóichí
strong  tréan tréise, tréine
dry  tirim tirime, tiorma
rather  - túisce
closer (to)  - neasa (do)

and are also used for more and less.

forming the comparative with and

Some adjectives have the same comparative form as the base form (as in the standard of all of the 3rd declension).
In order to signify the comparative, one can additionally use the word (= bigger, more) or (= smaller, less).
Theoretically, this form is possible with all adjectives.
Especially one can make a softened statement in the sense of "less": (e.g.: is lú is sean = not so old, less old). Here one often uses the abstract noun instead of the adjective (níos lú fearúileacht = less masculine)

tense form example
present is mó / lú is + adjective-base form Is mó is crua é ná riamh = it is worse than ever
preterite/conditional ba mhó / lú ba + adjective-base form Ba mhó ba chrua é ná riamh. = it was worse than ever 
alternative is mó / lú + noun an fear is mó cáil = the most famous man 

The latter form is very similar to the German genitive attributive "ein man größten Ruhmes"=a man of greatest fame

the suffix -de = the...the:

Sometimes -de is added to the comparative form
Mainly, this has the meaning "the...-er"
e.g. fearrde = the better, móide = the bigger/more, lúide = the less

Actually, this -de is the prepositional pronoun de (preposition de + é) and literally means "of him, of it"
Principally, this acts as a pronoun that refers to a preceding or following part of the sentence.
Is fusaide é a dhéanamh. = the simpler it is done. (literally: "Is simpler-of it it to do")
Is fearrde é thú. = the better it is for you (literally: "Is better-of it it you")
Ní miste (measa + de) liom é. = it doesn't bother me. (literally: "not-is worse-of it with-me it", also: "it is not any worse, I think")
Ní móide go rachfaidh mé. = It is not likely, that I will go. (literally: "not-is bigger-of it that I will go", also: "it is not any more, that ...")
Is móide an trua. = the more tragic it is. (literally: "it bigger-of it the pity")

móide and lúide serve also as "plus" and "minus"
lúide 10 bpunt = minus 10 Pfund (lit. "less-of it10 Pfund", "the less 10 Pfund")

de can less often also stand alone with the base form of the adjective:
e.g.: Bí cinnte de go ... = be sure of it , that ...

Instead of the suffix -de in the comparative, is amhlaidh is + comparative is used in the sense of "the...the".
This is especially done in constructions with the abstract noun.

use of the comparative (comhréir na breischéime)

The comparative form can not be used like a normal adjective predicative and attributive. It is a purely predicative adjective form (e.g.: "he is bigger"). An attributive use ("the bigger man") can only with the help of a relative clause, in which the comparative is the predicate. (e.g.: "the man who is bigger").
Furthermore, the comparative form can only be used with the copula (also "níos" is a copular form)
When using the comparative form one must make sure that if the adjective is to be used

and also if it is to be

predicative and adverbial use:

the dependent comparative (comparáid spleách)

This use is marked by the use of the der conjunction = als.

In clauses with a real verb:

tense form example
present níos + comparative form Tá an ghrian  níos gile ná an ghealach. = The sun ist brighter than the moon.
pret. and condit. ní ba / níba + comparative form Bhí an ghrian ní ba ghile ná an ghealach. = The sun was brighter than the moon.
pret. and cond. preceding vowel/ fh ní b' / níb + comparative form Bhí an ghrian ní b'áille ná an ghealach. = The sun was prettier than the moon.

In copular clauses:

tense form example
present is + comparative form Is gile an ghrian ná an ghealach. = The sun is brighter than the moon.
pret. and condit. ba + comparative form Ba ghile an ghrian ná an ghealach. = The sun was brighter than the moon.
pret. and cond. preceding vowel /fh b' + comparative form B'áille an ghrian ná an ghealach. = The sun was prettier than the moon.

Is fearr Gaeilge bhriste ná Béarla cliste! = Broken Irish is better than clever English!

If a verb follows ná

In this case, ná (mar), seachas mar, thar mar appears with a direct relative clause:
Labhraíonn sé níos fearr ná (mar) a scríobhann sé. = He speaks better than he writes.

The autonomous comparative (comparáid néamhspleách)

If the than-part is omitted (e.g. "The sun is brighter" instead of "The sun ist brighter than the moon"), one speaks of the autonomous comparative
In the form of the clause, nothing changes.

e.g.: Tá an aimsír níos teo inniu. = The weather is warmer today.
        Bhí an ghrian níba ghile inné. = The sun was brighter yesterday.


To express the increase of an attribute (e.g."to get better"), one uses the verb éirigh
e.g.: D'éirigh an aimsir níos teo ón lá inné = The weather became warmer since yesterday.
Or one uses the gradual abstract noun instead of the comparative form with the verb téigh + i:
e.g.: Tá sé ag dul i bhfeabhas. = It will get better.

To make statements with much + comparative (e.g.: "much better"), one uses mórán = "an amount", cuid mhaith = "a good bit" or i bhfad = "in length"
e.g. cuid mhaith níos fearr = much better, mórán níos mó = much bigger, i bhfad níos measa = much worse.
Similarly, one can also use numbers, especially seacht = "seven (times)".
e.g.: Tá sise seacht níos áille ná tusa. = She is seven times prettier than you.

Attributive use:

The term "attributive" is really only in the German translation correct.
In Irish, the comparative is not used attributively. Because of this, auxilliary constructions with relative clauses are necessary (e.g. instead of "the bigger man" follows "the man that is bigger" = an fear is mó)

indefinite noun and autonomous comparative

Only in this case can one use níos / níba + comparative attributively

e.g.: Ba mhaith liom carr níos fearr. = I would like to have a better car.
lit.: "would be good with-me car thing-that-is better"

every other case

In every other case, also:

If one uses the comparative as a dir. relative clause with the copula
tense form example
present is + comparative form Tá leabhar is mó agamsa ná do cheannsa. = I have a bigger book than you.
pret. and condit. ba + comparative form Bhí leabhar ba mhó agamsa ná do cheannsa. = I had a bigger book than you.
pret. and cond. preceding vowel/fh ab + comparative form Bhí leabhar ab áille agamsa ná do cheannsa. = I had a prettier book than you.

definite nouns

This is especially the case in which the superlative would occur.
How to translate such an Irish expression (comparative or superlative), is only to be seen from the context.
e.g.: an fear is mó = the bigger man or: the biggest man (lit.: "the man that is bigger")

Note the following:

The equative (an chéim chóthroim)

or also degree of equity (cóthroim = comh + trom = as strong)

The equative expresses that 2 things are the same w.r.t. an attribute (e.g You are as big as me.)
Like in German one needs 2 words ("so...wie"="as ... as"): chomh (= "as") and le (= "as", lit."with").
The adjective in the base form comes between the two. Instead of le also agus / is (= "and") with a dir. relative clause can be used.

The predicative equative

Statements like"He is as big as you"

form example
tá + subject + chomh + adj. + le + comparative object: Tá mé chomh mór le Pól. = I am as big as Paul.
tá + subject + chomh + adj. + agus (is) + direct relative clause: Tá mé chomh mór is atá Pól. = I am as big as Paul.

For statements like "He is just as big" one uses the words seo/sin/siúd or céanna.

form example
tá + subject + chomh + adj. + seo/sin/siúd Tá sé chomh mór seo. = He is just as big (as this).
tá + subject + chomh + adj. + céanna Tá mé chomh sásta céanna. = I am just as happy.

It is also possible to use comh- as a prefix to the adjective or noun:
Tá siad comhairde = They are equally big.

Statements like "He is so big that ..." are made similarly to the German/English with go (= that), but connected via agus (or there is a demonstrative pronoun):

form example
tá + subject + chomh + adj. + agus go/nach Bhí mé chomh sásta agus go raibh tú ann. 
= I was so happy, that you were there.
tá + subject + chomh + adj. + sin + go/nach Bhí mé chomh sásta sin go raibh tú ann. 
= I was so happy, that you were there.

Statements like "so big, as if..." are formed with and an irreal conditional clause:

form example
tá + subject + chomh + adj. + agus dá Bhí mé chomh dona agus dá mbeidh mé tinn.
= I was feeling so bad, as if I were sick.

The interrogative form "how big is he?" is cé chomh (= how?, lit. "who so?") again with le
Without cé it can be used as an exlamation ("how big he is!")
As opposed to the German, the logical subject of such clauses appears after le : chomh mór leat! = how big you are! (lit.: "so big with-you")

- form example
question: Cé + chomh + adj. + le + subject? Cé chomh sásta leat? = How happy are you? 
Cé chomh sásta le Pól? = How happy is Paul?
exclamation: Chomh + adj. + le + subject! Chomh sásta leat! = How happy you are!
Chomh sásta le Pól! = How happy Paul is!

Cé chomh hard leis an tsliabh? = How high is the mountain?
Cé chomh beag leis an bpáirc? = How small is the park?
Féach, chomh domhain leis an loch! = Look, how deep the lake is!

Another form to express something similar is (without the equativr, but with the abstract noun) see "amazing, how big he is" (also as a question: "how ... is he?")
The interrogative form cá + adj. = how ... is ..., e.g. Cá hard é? = How high is it?  is also possible.

The attributive equative

Statements like e.g.: "as good a man as you"

chomh + adjective + le is simply placed after the noun.
The classification is done via bí + ar or bí + i:

form example
noun + chomh + adj. + le + comparative object   Tá sé ar fhear chomh maith leat = He is as good a man as you.
Tá sé ina fhear chomh maith leat = He is as good a man as you.

(lit.: "is he on / in-his man so good as-you")

Possible is also: chomh + adj. + de + noun + le:

form example
chomh + adj. + de + noun + le + comparative object   Tá sé chomh maith d'fhear leat = He is as good a man as you.
(lit.: "is he so good of man with-you")

A substantivisation of the adjectives with the prefix comh- = "same" (có- preceding mh-) is possible. Otherwise the substantivised adjective remains unchanged to the adjective form. The comparative object acts as the possessive pronoun.

form example
possessive pron. + comh- + substantiv. adj. + de + noun   Níl do chómhaith d'fhear anseo. = There is no good man such as you here.
(lit.: "not-is your same-goodness of man here")

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[ 1 ] The use of a clause with níos deserves an explanation:
Because a clause like "Tá an bhean níos fearr" ( = "The woman is better") is comprised of two parts: a main clause "Tá an bhean ní" ( = "the woman is a thing") and one for the comparative customary copular relative clause "is fearr" ( = "... that is better").
The main clause is problematic, because it is both logical ("the woman is a thing") and grammatically (classificatory clause with bí instead of the copula ) difficult to explain.
It appears rather, that "ní" ( = "a thing") is not seen as a noun here, but as an adverb, which explains the use of bí (tá) and also relates the logically false statement "woman = thing".
Earlier this "ní" was also no noun at all, but a topical pronoun, a n-í = the one who, comparable to the still used an té = the person who
This "adverbial" or even "pronominal" ní connects to the copular relative form "is" to "níos".

[ 2 ] thankfully contributed by: Panu Höglund © 2002