How to Memorize Seven Common but Irregular Comparative and Superlative Latin Adjective Forms
For review from the first article in this series, here again are the seven irregular comparative and superlative adjectives that are the subject of this lesson:
Bonus –a –um (positive), Melior –ius (comparative), Optimus –a –um (superlative)
Magnus –a –um, Maior –ius, Maximus –a –um
Malus –a –um, Peior –ius, Pessimus –a –um
Multus –a –um, (––) Plus, Plurimus –a –um
Parvus –a –um, Minor (Minus), Minimus –a –um
(Prae, Pro), Prior, –ius Primus –a –um
Superus –a –um, Superior –ius, Summus –a –um (or Supremus –a –um)
The positive forms of these adjectives should be well familiar to the Latin student by the time he/she is introduced to comparative and superlative adjectives. The memorization of the irregular comparative and superlative forms is the focus here.
First off, notice that the comparative and superlative forms of the irregular adjectives above bear a striking resemblance to common modern English words. For example, notice that the comparative form of “parvus" is “minor" which is an exact replication of English “minor." Also, notice that the superlative form of “parvus" is “minimus" which bears a striking resemblance to “minimal."
This is the key to memorizing these irregular comparative and superlative forms. All of them have similar forms to English words with which the Latin student is likely familiar. Below is a list of the irregular forms as well as several words in English that are similar in form and meaning to the comparative and superlative forms given above.
Optimus: optimum, optimist
Maior: major, majority
Plus: plus, plural
Minor: minor, minority, minus, minute
Minimus: minimum, minimize
Prior: prior, priority
Primus: prime, primary
Superior: superior superiority
Summus: summit, sum, summation
Supremus: supreme, supremacy
In each of the cases above, there is a clear and direct relationship between the comparative and superlative Latin adjectives and a common, modern English word. In this way, the Latin student need not learn these comparative and superlative forms by rote or obscure memorization. In fact, in most of the cases above, the adjective’s form is so similar to an English form that no memorization may be necessary at all.