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The positive forms in brackets are adverbs: corresponding adjectives exist only in the comparative and superlative.
Remarks on the Irregular Comparative
Better comes from a root which we have in the word bootless, meaning of no good'; and in to boot, meaning 'to the good.' Best= bet-est.
The stems of worse and less end in s, and the comparative suffix, which was originally -s before it became -r, has been merged in the s of the stems. Thus worse and less were not obviously comparative forms, and consequently we get the double comparatives worser, lesser.
Less, least are not formed from little.
More, most are connected etymologically with mickle, not with many. The archaic moe or mo and more are from different roots.
Near is really the comparative of nigh: the r is the sign of comparison: so nearer is a double comparative. In Old Eng. the positive was neah.
Last is from latest, as best from betest. We use latter and last of order in a series, later and latest of time.
Elder, eldest show a modification of the vowel of the positive which is common in German comparative forms. With reference to the double set of forms, elder, eldest, older, oldest, observe that (1) elder is no longer used to express comparison with than: we cannot say 'He is elder than his brother': (2) the use of elder is restricted to persons: we cannot say 'This is the elder of the two horses :' (3) elder can be used as a substantive, 'Respect your elders:' older is always an adjective.
Rathe as a positive adjective meant 'early.' Milton speaks of 'the rathe primrose.' We preserve only the comparative rather, which we use as an adverb: 'I would rather go'= I would sooner go than not go, if I had the choice.
Hindmost, inmost, utmost, etc. These words in -most require particular attention. At first sight one would naturally suppose them to be compounds of most, as this explanation would exactly suit their meaning as superlatives. But we can trace their forms back to an earlier period of the language and satisfy ourselves that they did not arise by the combination of most and hind, most and in, etc. In Old English, several adjectives, which have comparatives and superlatives formed from adverbs, contain the letter -m- which was a superlative suffix. To this was added the superlative ending -est, making mest, which was confounded with most. Thus these words are really double superlatives. (But most the superlative of much is not formed in this way. It is derived from a positive root mag-, meaning 'great,' by adding st.)
Foremost is really a double superlative of fore, containing the two superlative inflexions -m- and -st. But the fact that the -m- represented an earlier superlative suffix was forgotten, and from forem-ost, as if it were a simple superlative, the comparative form-er was coined. Hence the word former breaks up into these elements; root fore, superlative suffix -m-, comparative suffix -er.
First represents the superlative of fore, fore-st, the vowel of the root being changed by Umlaut.
Further is a comparative of fore, formed by adding a comparative suffix -ther. It was wrongly looked upon as a comparative of forth to which the regular comparative ending -er had been added, and, owing to this mistaken notion, the th was retained in the superlative furth-est. Farther and further are used indiscriminately now, but their meanings were originally different; farther meant 'more distant, more far away,' further, more in front, more to the fore.' Yet we see no contradiction at the present day in saying 'Stand further off,' 'He is coming farther this way.'
Hind occurs as an adjective in 'the hind quarter,' 'hind wheel.' Utter is used as a comparative in the law-courts in the phrase 'the utter bar,' in contrast with the 'inner bar.'
116. Examples of Double Comparatives are seen in nearer, lesser, worser: examples of Double Superlatives in foremost, inmost, upmost, etc. Such expressions as more better, more braver, most worst, most unkindest are frequently met with in Shakespeare and other Elizabethan writers. When we use such expressions as chiefest or most universal, we are employing adjectives which are double superlatives
in meaning though not in form. But this arises from our laxity in the choice of words: we use chief as if it meant the same as important, and universal as if it meant the same as general.
117. Superlatives are sometimes employed to denote the presence of a quality in a high degree, without any suggestion of comparison. When a mother writes to her son as 'My dearest boy,' she does not mean that his brothers occupy a lower place in her affections: 'dearest' signifies in such a case 'very dear.'
118. There are some comparative adjectives which we cannot use with than. Thus the following adjectives which have been borrowed directly from the Latin in the comparative form do not admit than after them: senior, junior, exterior, (which take to after them); major, minor, interior. The following adjectives of English origin have the same characteristic; elder, inner, outer, latter. We can say older than, later than, but not elder than, latter than.
1. Adjectives of two syllables having certain terminations may be compared without the use of more and most. Specify three of these terminations, and mention adjectives which contain them.
2. Give the comparative and superlative degrees of sad, gay, free, nigh, bad, old, hateful, happy, out, awry, fore, late, sly, holy, far, virtuous, dry, complete, big, honourable.
3. Make sentences which illustrate the difference in our use of oldest, eldest; latest, last; nearest, next; farthest, furthest.
4. Which of the following Adjectives, when employed in their strict sense, cannot be compared?—common, universal, supreme, monthly, triangular, despotic, absolute, inevitable, unique, European, eternal, boundless.
5. Describe the origin and formation of the words first, second, eleven, thirteen, twenty, million.
119. A Pronoun is commonly defined as a word used instead of a noun. The definition has these merits: it is short, it is easily understood, and it calls attention to the useful service which most Pronouns perform in saving the repetition of a noun. Thus, for example, if no pronouns existed, instead of saying 'John gave Mary a watch on her birthday, and she lost it,' we should have to say 'John gave Mary a watch on Mary's birthday, and Mary lost the watch.'
120. But have all pronouns this property of serving as substitutes for nouns?
A good deal of ingenuity must be exercised if we are to bring within the scope of the definition (1) the Personal Pronouns of the First and Second Persons, and (2) the Interrogative Pronouns.
(1) For if the pronouns I and you were abolished, and nouns were put in their places, we should have to recast our sentences entirely and make all our statements in the third person.
(2) Again, when we ask Who broke the window?' what is the noun for which we are to say that the pronoun Who serves as substitute? We must maintain that the pronoun Who here stands for the noun which the answer supplies, but this seems rather far-fetched. For suppose that the reply to the question is not 'Brown,' or 'the boy,' but 'I don't know,' where is the noun ?
The ordinary definition is exposed to the further objection that it overlooks the essential difference between Noun and Pronoun. The essential difference is this. A Noun has a uniform meaning of its own. It always indicates an object of the same kind. The meaning of a Pronoun, on the contrary, varies with every change in its application. (See § 73, 3, p. 70.) If I read the words, 'A horse ran away,' I know, not indeed what particular horse ran away, but the particular class of objects to which the thing that ran away belonged. If, on the other hand, I read the words, 'It ran away,' it may signify a horse, or a dog, or a traction-engine, or anything else, according to the context. I means Jones when Jones speaks, Zeus when Zeus speaks, a horse or a tree when horses and trees speak, as they do in fables. In certain situations anything can be I, you, he, this, or that, but only one set of things can be horses. Pronouns admit of universal application: the objects which they denote are infinitely various. Nouns, on the contrary, identify things as belonging to particular groups. In short, Pronouns indicate; Nouns name.
A Pronoun might therefore be defined as a word which denotes a thing, not by its own name but by its relation to something else. This statement, however, unless accompanied 'by some such explanation as we have given above, would convey very little meaning to anybody. The student will probably prefer to fall back upon the ordinary definition of a Pronoun as a word used instead of a noun, and provided that he understands in what respects the definition is defective, no harm will result if he follows his preference.
121. Pronouns are of different kinds.
(1) Some are used exclusively as substitutes for nouns: e.g. he, who. We cannot say, 'He man or 'Who boy.' In such expressions as, 'I, the master,' 'You, the pupil,' 'He, John,' we have a noun in apposition with the pronoun: John explains he; he does not limit the application of John.