Italian comparatives or comparativi are a kind of adjective that we can use to compare two things, people, places or objects. Meanwhile, superlatives or superlativi are another type of adjective that expresses when something is of the highest or lowest quality.
Italian comparatives and superlatives function similarly to how they do in English, but they require a little practice. Fear not—after this lesson, you’ll be readier than ever (see the comparative?).
Italian has two kinds of comparativi: comparatives of inequality (comparativi di disuguaglianza) and comparatives of equality (comparativi di uguaglianza).
Italian speakers use comparatives of equality when they want to say two things have a similar (or the same) quality or property, such as “he has as many cats as dogs.”
On the other hand, comparatives of inequality express when two things have a difference in quality or property, such as “his hair is shorter than mine.”
Italian comparatives of inequality
In Italian, the basic construction for comparatives of inequality is this:
più…di or che
meno…di or che
Let’s take a look at this in example sentences.
Italian comparatives of inequality
|Italian comparatives of inequality||Francesco is more interesting than Julia.|
|Il mio cane è meno pigro del mio gatto.||My dog is less lazy than my cat|
|Siamo più disorganizzati di lei.||We are more disorganized than her.|
|Ha meno progetti di me.||(She/he) has fewer projects than me.|
|Loro sono più arrabbiati che stanchi.||They are more angry than tired.|
|Ho meno figli che figlie.||I have fewer sons than daughters.|
|Avete più amici che nemici.||You all have more friends than enemies.|
You might notice that some examples use di after the adjectives, while other times it’s che. Why?
Italian speakers use di when:
- Comparing two nouns through an adjective. Think of this as comparing two people or things against one quality. Look at the example below:
- L’italiano è più difficile del francese. (Italian is more difficult than French.)
Below is an example of comparison referring to the quantity of a noun that two other nouns "own"/ "are assigned". The comparison doesn't involve an adjective:
- (Lui/lei) Ha meno progetti di me. (He/she) has less projects than me.
Pro-tip: Remember that if the preposition di is followed by a definite article (il, i, gli, lo, la or le), they will combine and become del, dei, degli, dello, della, delle or dell’.
- Comparing people, things or concepts and there is a number:
- Sono passati più di due anni? (Has it been more than ,2 years?)
- Costa meno di due euro. (It’s less than two euros.)
We use che when:
- Comparing two qualities (adjectives) of a noun. Essentially, it’s the reverse of rule number one of di. We use che when you are comparing qualities or properties of only one subject. The noun is underlined below:
- Il film è più sciocco che spaventoso. (The movie is sillier than scary.)
- Comparing two verbs through an adjective. The verbs are underlined below:
Cucinare è più divertente che pulire. (Cooking is more fun than cleaning.)
Guidare è meno salutare che andare in bicicletta. (Driving is less healthy than riding a bike.)
- Comparing the quantities of two nouns. The nouns are underlined below:
Ho meno figli che figlie. (I have fewer sons than daughters.)
Avete più amici che nemici. (You all have more friends than enemies.)
- There is a preposition after the adjective (such as “at”, “in”, “on”, etc.) They are underlined below:
- Il viaggio è più breve in aereo che in treno. (The trip is shorter by plane than by train.)
Italian comparatives of equality
Meanwhile, comparatives of equality express when something is the same as another in its property, frequency or quantity. In English, this looks like: “She’s as tall as him.”
In Italian, there are two comparatives of equality:
Examples of Italian comparatives of equality
|I miei capelli sono (tanto) lunghi quanto i tuoi.||My hair is as long as your hair.|
|Mia madre è (così) bella come Julia Roberts.||My mother is as beautiful as Julia Roberts.|
Tanto and così are in parenthesis because they’re optional here.
Now, both expressions mean the same thing and are interchangeable, but there are instances where you can only use tanto…quanto, i.e. when comparing two verbs, two adjectives, two nouns, or the quantity of one or two nouns.
- Corro tanto quanto vado a nuotare. (I run as often as I go swimming.)
- Carla è tanto sorpresa quanto felice. (Carla is as surprised as she is happy.)
- Nella città c’erano tanto chiese quanto scuole. (In the town there were churches as well as schools.)
- Nella città c’erano tante chiese quante scuole. (In the town there were as many churches as schools.)
- Hai tante scarpe quante me. (You have as many shoes as me.)
The last two examples above also show another important rule. Tanto…quanto will agree in number and gender if they are referring to the quantity of a noun (in these cases, chiese or churches, scuole or schools, and scarpe or shoes). Così…come is invariable and won’t ever change according to number or gender.
Pro-tip: If a non-possessive pronoun comes after a comparative, it must be a disjunctive pronoun (a pronoun that can stand on its own). In English, these would be me, you, him, her, us, you, and them. In Italian, they are me, te, lui, lei, noi, voi, and loro. Learn more about this with our guide to Italian pronouns.
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Irregular Italian comparatives
Of course, there are some irregular Italian comparatives. Before you go, it’s vital to know that in Italian we usually employ other words instead of più buono or più cattivo, although it’s not a hard and fast rule.
Here’s a list of the comparatives that are irregular.
*With these comparatives, pay close attention to whether they modify a noun or a verb. Here’s how that functions in a sentence:
- La mia casa è migliore della tua. (My house is better than your house.)
- Gioca a calcio meglio di me. (He plays football better than me.)
- La loro performance è stata peggiore della nostra. (Their performance was worse than ours.)
- Disegno peggio di un bambino. (I draw worse than a child.)
Superlatives express when something is extraordinary (or exceptionally terrible). Just as there are two kinds of Italian comparatives, there are two kinds of Italian superlatives: relative (superlativo relativo) and absolute (superlativo assoluto).
Relative superlatives indicate when something is a quality above or below relative to a group.
An example in English would be:
- My dad is the oldest in our family.
- My dog is the fastest in this park.
- My friend is the least funny person in our class.
The underlined parts are the relative group. This is what makes it clear what defined group you are relating the subject to.
To make these sentences in Italian, we’ll use più/meno again. This time, we’ll add a definite article (il, i, gli, lo, la or le).
- Mio papà è il più anziano della famiglia.
- Il mio cane è il più veloce di questo parco.
- La mia amica è la meno divertente della nostra classe.
One last note on relative superlatives—the preposition that comes after the adjective isn’t always di. We also use tra (among) or che (that/which) when we are demonstrating a relationship to a relative group:
- Siete i più laboriosi tra i nuovi dipendenti. (You all are the most hardworking among the new employees.)
- Questo inverno è il più freddo che abbia mai vissuto. (It’s the coldest winter that I’ve ever seen.)
Italian absolute superlatives indicate that something is of an extreme quality (good or bad). There is no comparison or relative group here. In English, this looks like:
- The girl is so beautiful.
- My students are very clever.
- You are so brave!
To make an absolute superlative in Italian, there’s a handy suffix we can use! Simply add -issimo (a / i / e) to the end of the adjective.
- La ragazza è bellissima.
- I miei studenti sono intelligentissimi.
- Sei coraggiosissimo!
Italian comparatives and superlatives can seem like a lot at once, but with practice, it becomes second-nature. At Busuu, we help language learners like yourself discover new ways to learn Italian.
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