The act of comparison is a common part of everyday conversation, so basic comparatives and superlatives are a component of Portuguese grammar you’ll need to learn relatively early on. They’re particularly useful when getting to know people and talking about your interests, but they are also useful for a range of activities, from tourism to the workplace. Learning with one of our tutors can help you with this and other areas of Portuguese grammar.
In this post, we’ll look at the how to use mais and menos, the most common comparative and superlative adjectives, before looking at a few other important comparative and superlative words.
Comparatives: More and Less
The majority of comparatives in Portuguese grammar are made by placing the words mais (more) and menos (less) before the adjective, rather than by adding a suffix as is frequently the case in English. For instance, to say somebody is taller than somebody else, we say they are mais alto(a), literally “more tall.” Five examples of “more” and “less” comparisons in Portuguese follow.
She is taller than him.
Ela é mais alta que ele.
He is shorter than her.
Ele é mais baixo que ela.
A Ferrari is faster than a Ford.
Uma Ferrari é mais rápida que um Ford.
It’s colder today than it was yesterday.
Está mais frio hoje do que ontem.
Salvador é mais longe de São Paulo do que Belo Horizonte.
Not all comparisons in Portuguese grammar are formed like this; there are a number of irregular comparative adjectives (see below). However, mais and menos can be used in most cases.
Superlatives: Most and Least
In Portuguese grammar, the majority of superlatives are also formed using the words mais and menos. This is somewhat counter-intuitive for an English speaker, because in English the words “most” and “least” are considered fairly basic components of the language. However, they do not have direct equivalents in Portuguese. Instead, in Portuguese the phrases o/a mais and o/a menos are used, literally “the more” and “the less.” Here are four examples of how that works in practice. Note that the noun is placed between the article and the adjective rather than after the adjective as it would be in English.
He is the most famous singer in the world.
Ele é o cantor mais famoso do mundo.
She is the most talented writer of her generation.
Ela é a escritora mais talentosa de sua geração.
This is the least organized hotel I’ve ever visited.
Este é o hotel menos organizado que já visitei.
This is the most interesting article in the newspaper.
Este é o artigo mais interessante do jornal.
Again, this works for the majority of adjectives, but not for all. We will now move on to the exceptions to the rules described above: irregular Portuguese adjectives.
There are several irregular comparative and superlative adjectives that are used instead of mais… or menos… in certain situations. The most important ones are listed below.
Superlatives can be derived from the words above by placing an article before the adjective. So, o/a melhor means “the best,” o/a pior means “the worst,” o/a maior means “the biggest,” and o/a menor means “the smallest.” Some examples of how to use these words in sentences follow.
She is better at math than me.
Ela é melhor em matemática do que eu.
The current president is worse than his predecessor.
O presidente atual é pior que seu antecessor.
Pernambuco é menor que a Bahia.
This is the biggest park in the city.
Este é o maior parque da cidade.
This is the best hotel in the whole country.
Este é o melhor hotel em todo o país.
To learn more comparative and superlative vocabulary, and more about Portuguese grammar in general, you can practice with an expert tutor. We provide tutors for every level of Portuguese expertise, who can provide a lesson plan to fit your ability and schedule. Whatever your Portuguese learning needs, we should be able to accommodate you—and we offer a moneyback guarantee if you’re not completely satisfied with your first lesson.