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The comparative adjective is distinguished from the positive degree of the adjective by the addition of a word or a morpheme, as in the following examples:

  • Positive degree: slim smart

  • Comparative degree: slimmer smarter, meer ontsteld more upset.

The comparative is normally used to express a higher degree (majorative), than in the two examples above. However, it is also possible to express the opposite relation, that is a lower degree (minorative), as in the following examples:

  • Positive degree: slim smart
  • Majorative comparative degree: slimmer smarter
  • Minorative comparative degree: minder slim less smart

Note that the minorative comparative degree can only be expressed syntactically, that is, with the addition of the word minder less, and not by means of the suffix -er, as in the case of the majorative comparative degree form slimmer smarter above.


A comparative construction usually contains a comparative complement which provides the standard for comparison. In the following example, the comparative complement has been bracketed:

Example 1

Rachelle is slimm·er [as Elsa].
Rachelle be.PRS smart·CMPR [than Elsa]
Rachelle is smarter [than Elsa].
Adjectives may have a PP argument, as in the following example of the positive use of an adjective as part of the predicate:
Example 2

Ek is afhanklik van haar.
I be.PRS dependent from her
I am dependent on her.

In the comparative construction, which could include the standard for comparison, the PP argument follows the same syntactic pattern as in the case of the positive use:

Example 3

Staat+sosialisme maak mense afhanklik·er van die staat [as van mekaar].
state+socialism makes people dependent·CMPR of the state [than of each.other]
State socialism makes people more dependent on the state [than on each other].

Comparative adjectives may also occur in the partitive construction. It could be expressed as a positive comparison, as in this example:

Example 4

Sy het ge·hoop om iets interessant·er·s in die kas te vind.
she have.AUX hoped for.COMP something interesting·CMPR.PTV.GEN in the wardrobe PTCL.INF find.INF
She had hoped to find something more interesting in the wardrobe.

Note that the comparative degree used as a partitive is expressed morphologically in Afrikaans, while English has to use the periphrastic construction ("more" + ADJ). The partitive adjective may, however, also be used in a negative comparison:

Example 5

Daar is niks mooi·er·s in die hele wêreld nie.
there be.PRS nothing beautiful·CMPR.PTV.GEN in the whole world PTCL.NEG
There is nothing more beautiful in the whole world.

As noted earlier, the minorative degree can only be expressed syntactically, which also applies to the partitive:

Example 6

Dus sou ons iets minder gewelddadig·s aanbeveel.
therefore want.to.AUX.MOD.PRT we something less violent·CMPR.PTV.GEN recommend
Therefore we would recommend something less violent.

Compare the following majorative equivalent of the sentence above:

Example 7

Dus sou ons nie iets gewelddadig·er·s aanbeveel nie.
therefore want.to.AUX.MOD.PRT we not something violent·CMPR.PTV.GEN recommend PTCL.NEG
Therefore we would not recommend something more violent.

It should also be noted that in the speech (and writings) of some, especially in informal contexts, the suffix -s as a marker of the partitive, falls away. It might be attributed to the fact that, while the suffix might even occur in comparatively long partitive constructions, such as iets minder indrukwekkends something less impressive, it does not occur in relative clauses which express the same semantic content as the partitive:

Example 8

Dit gaan nie oor iets wat minder aangenaam vir my is nie.
it goes not about something that.REL less pleasant for me be.PRS PTCL.NEG
It is not about something which is less pleasant to me.
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