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Confusing adjectives

Confusing Adjectives.


Little,  a little,  the little     ( tells about quantity)

  • Little:   hardly any/ practically no   ( negative  meaning)

Eg:  There is little water in the Jar.

  • A little:    some    ( positive meaning)

Eg:  A little inspiration can make him confident

  • The little: small quantity  ( relatively smaller than a little) ( positive meaning)

Eg:  We  can spend the little money for  entertainment.


Few,  a few,  the few    ( tells about number)

  • Few:  hardly  or  practically none    ( negative meaning)

               Eg:  Few people attended the party.

  • A few: a small number     ( positive meaning)

              Eg:    Only   a  few  students got  the answers.

  • The few: very small number ( positive meaning)

              Eg:  The few people who held strike were dismissed by the management


3    First, foremost

  • First: first in order.

              Eg:  Abraham Lincoln is the first president of America.

  • Foremost: leading  or  most eminent.

              Eg:   Shakespeare is still the foremost literary figure in the world of English literature.


4   Elder,  eldest,  older,  oldest

  • Elder and eldest :    used only of persons belonging to same family.   And  also, not used of animals                                                                   or  inanimate things. 

                                                 * Elder is  followed  only by  ‘to’,   not ‘than’

                                                     Eg:  Mary is  elder to  her sister Merlin.

  • Older and oldest:   used only of  persons not belonging to same family.  And also used of animals

                                                   and inanimate things.

                                                 * Older is followed by than.

                                                   Eg:   My assistant is older than me

                                                   This is the oldest temple in this village.


5  Nearest,  next

  • Nearest: denoting nearness in space.

                                  Eg:  Which is the nearest Airport here?

  • Next :   denoting position or order.

                                 Eg:  Who is standing next to  Mathew?


Farther,  further

  • Farther: denoting 

                               Eg:  They plan to buy a house, a little farther from here

  • Further: tells about additional or beyond what exists now.

                               Eg:   He is waiting for  a further confirmation.


7   Later,  latest,  latter,  last.

  • Later and Latest:  denoting time.

                                                Eg:   He may call you later.

                                                         This is the latest edition of  this book.

  • Latter and last:    denoting order or position.


                                              Eg:  Mathew and Jacob attended the test. But the latter failed.

                                             *Here, the latter means the second person Jacob.

                                              *To mention the first person Mathew,  the word former is to be used.

                                               *So former is used for the first and  latter for the second.


                                                eg:  The boy sitting in the last bench is the winner in  the  test.


Many,  many a,  a great many

  • Many :        meaning numerous and refers to number.    (* Much refers to quantity)

                                Eg:  Martin has so many restaurants in Switzerland.

  • Many a :     giving emphasis on individual’s experience and  says that there are many like him or

                                 her experienced it.   ‘Many a’  is singular in form but plural in meaning

                               It is followed by a singular noun and verb.

                                 Eg:  Many a man has once felt isolation in his life.  


  • A great many : meaning a large number.

                                         Eg:  A great many friends attended John’s birthday function.


9   Outermost,  uttermost, utmost, utter.

  • Outermost :    farther from the centre.

                                         Eg:  The  students climbed over the outermost area of the mountain.

  • Uttermost :     the most distant or 

                                         Eg:  He lives in the uttermost part of the forest.

  • Utmost :          extreme, in the highest degree.

                                      Eg:  He expressed his utmost desire to participate the meeting.

  • Utter :             comparative in form but  superlative in meaning. ( ‘complete’ or  ‘unqualified’)


                                         * used in negative sense

                                         Eg:   Thomas had faced an utter failure in the election.


10  Less,  lesser

  • Less :              Positive in form but comparative in meaning. It is followed by  ‘than’.

                                    ( smaller in size, measurement, duration, number, etc.)

                                     Eg:  The expense is less than what we expected.


  • Lesser :          a double comparative but never followed by than.  ( not so great as the other one)

                                     Eg:  He  is the  lesser of the two villains.


Some  comparative adjectives derived from Latin  which are followed by ‘to’,  not  ‘than’

  • Inferior :

                     Eg:   John is inferior to  Samuel.

  • Superior :  

                     Eg:  My friend is superior to me.

  • Junior :

                      Eg:  Mr. Mathew is junior to  Martin.

  • Senior :

                     Eg: George is  senior to  Jacob.

  • Prior :

                    Eg  :  We visited him prior to our  journey to  Singapore.


Some Latin comparatives now used as Positive adjectives are listed below.

  • ‘Interior’,  ‘Exterior’,  ‘Major’,  ‘Minor’,   ‘Ulterior’,   ‘Posterior’,   ‘Anterior’.


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