Happier or More Happy: Understanding the Comparative Form of Happy – Strategies for Parents

Happier or More Happy: Understanding the Comparative Form of Happy

Happiness is an emotion everybody experiences and compares amongst themselves. However, just like every other word in the English language, there are rules for using variants of the adjective “happy” — for instance, is it “happier” or “more happy”?

“Happier” is the most common spelling for the comparative form of the adjective “happy.” When an adjective has two syllables and ends on a -y, you will normally change the -y to an “i” to add either -er or -est. “More happy” is a less common alternative that we might use in place of “happier” when using two comparatives in the same sentence. 

As you read this article, you will learn why you will most often use “happier,” but we’ll also provide some instances where you might wish to use “more happy” instead. We’ll also cover basic sentence structure for using these comparative forms.

Is There a Word “Happier”?

“Happier” is a modified form of “happy,” which is an adjective that you will use to define how someone feels. Happiness, the state of being happy, is the feeling of joy and contentment, as any dictionary will tell you. 

Both “happy” and “happier” are adjectives. An adjective is a word that modifies a noun; in other words, the adjective describes the noun.

For instance, to say that my friend has a happy baby, I use the adjective “happy” to describe the noun “baby.” Thus, whomever I am speaking to will know that the baby is joyous and content.

We can also use “happy” as a predicate adjective after the noun it describes, connecting it with a linking verb, as in “I am happy.”

“Happier” Is a Comparative Adjective

Adjectives also have comparative and superlative forms that either take words such as “more” and “most” or accept suffixes at the end. In our case, the comparative form for “happy” is usually “happier.”

Consider how we use “happier” in the following examples:

  • I have never seen anyone happier than her.
  • You seem happier than you were at your last job.

Notice in the above examples that we’re comparing a person’s happiness to anyone else or comparing the same person’s happiness over time.

Notice how we use the comparative adjective to describe two nouns or pronouns. For example, in the first sentence, we compare the direct object “anyone” to the object of the preposition “her.” 

In the second sentence, we compare the subject “you” in the present — using “than” as a conjunction — to “you” in the past, which is in the nominative case. The nominative case indicates that the pronoun is the subject of a verb, in this case, “were.”

Formal Writing Uses “Than” as a Conjunction vs. Preposition

There is a strong preference for using “than” as a conjunction rather than a preposition in academic and formal writing. One way you can tell the difference is if the second pronoun is in the objective case or the nominative case (CMOS 5.183).

  • Objective: She’s happier than me.
  • Nominative: She’s happier than I am.
  • Objective: We’re happier than them.
  • Nominative: We’re happier than they are.

If you’re using the nominative case, “than” is a conjunction. If you’re using the objective case, “than” is a preposition, and what follows is the object of the preposition.

Note how the nominative case can always use a be-verb such as “am” or “are” after the pronoun. We can also remove it, and the sentence would retain its meaning.

Using “Than” With Possessive Pronouns

When we use possessive adjectives to modify the nouns we’re describing, we must specify the nouns each time.

  • His ring is shinier than my ring [is].
  • Your garden is prettier than her garden[is]. 
  • Her dog is bigger than my dog [is].

In contrast, you will not need to explicitly name both items in the sentence when we use possessive pronouns. Instead, after you specify the first item, your audience will know that you are comparing possessions. Consider the examples below.

  • His ring is shinier than mine [is].
  • Your garden is prettier than hers [is].
  • Her dog is bigger than mine [is].

In the first example, it is clear that they’re comparing different rings between two people. “His,” “your,” “her,” “hers,” and “mine” are generally adjectives, but they can function as pronoun equivalents when we do not follow them with a noun.

Forming Comparative Adjectives

When deciding how to make an adjective comparative, you will look at the number of syllables in the word to decide if you should use a suffix or use “more” in front of it (source).

First, one-syllable words use -er for comparatives and -est for superlatives. When an adjective has a consonant-vowel-consonant pattern, for example, the word “red,” you will double the last consonant. As a result, the comparative form will be “redder” and the superlative “reddest.”

Second, adjectives with two syllables will add either “more” to the beginning or -er as the suffix to make a comparative adjective. Similarly, you will add “most” to the beginning or -est as a suffix to make a superlative.

Finally, for adjectives with three or more syllables, you will use “more” in front for a comparative adjective and “most” in front for a superlative adjective. 

Along with syllable structure, you will need to be conscious of adjectives ending in “y.” When this occurs, you will replace “y” with “i” before adding the appropriate suffix.

To read more about irregular superlative and comparative adjectives and see more examples, check out our article, “Denser or More Dense: Using the Comparative Form of Dense.”

Happier vs. More Happy

Image by Free-Photos via Pixabay

“Happier” and “more happy” are both comparative forms of “happy” and mean the same thing, although “more happy” is much less common.

We normally use “more” or “most” for comparative and superlative adjectives, respectively, that cannot take a suffix, especially for an adjective with three or more syllables. Two-syllable adjectives are more flexible, but they almost always take a suffix when they end in a “y,” like “happy.”

When You Might Use “More Happy”

Still, we might use “more happy” in the place of “happier” when we have already used “happier” in the sentence, paragraph, or conversation. 

Furthermore, there are situations where using “more happy” maintains a sense of balance in the sentence, as in the following examples.

  • I’m more happy than not.
  • Are you more happy or less unhappy?

In the first example, if we used “happier,” the sentence’s meaning would be “I’m happier than not happy,” which loses the parallel emphasis. So instead, it should mean “I’m more happy than not happy.”

When someone says that they are “more happy than not,” they’re indicating that their happiness is greater than any sadness they might be experiencing.  

We face a similar issue with the second example. To properly contrast the possibility of being “more happy” or “less unhappy,” we need to include “more” before “happy.”

No More

We can also use “more” as part of the adverb phrase “no more,” which means something will no longer be. In this case, we are not using a comparative adjective but modifying the adjective “happy” with the adverb phrase.

  • Will there be no more happy endings?

Here, the adverb phrase “no more” indicates the possibility that there will no longer be any “happy endings.”

Similarly, “no more than” is a common phrase that we use when we want to emphasize how small or insignificant something is (source).

  • He is no more happy than I am.

Is Much More Happier Correct?

No, “much more happier” is not a phrase that we should use. “Much” describes the quantity, and “more” compares two or more things, but combining “more” with the comparative “happier” is incorrect. Therefore, you will use either “more” or add -er, not both (source).

Instead, you would say “much happier” to convey exactly how happy you are on a scale.

What Does More Than Happy Mean?

We can also use the idiom “more than” in expressions such as “I’m more than happy to do ___.” The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines this idiom as meaning “to a great degree” or “extremely”(source).

In the following sentences, the expression means that the person is very happy to perform the stated action:

  • We are more than happy to deliver the cake you have ordered.
  • I am more than happy to come over tonight and help you cook dinner.
  • She was more than happy to create a piece of art for the new installation in the library.

Using this phrase lets people know you are extremely happy about something. Hearing “more than happy” instead of simply “happy” communicates a great deal of enthusiasm.

Happiest and Most Happy

In addition to comparative adjectives, we can use superlative adjectives to compare things. However, you will use superlatives to compare more than three things because superlatives indicate that one thing is to the highest degree within a group. 

For “happy,” a two-syllable adjective, to become a superlative, you will do one of two things: you will either add -est to the end or “most” before the word “happy.” 

Furthermore, it is possible to be the “happiest” you’ve ever been and to be the “most happy” you’ve ever been. Just as with “more happy” vs. “happier,” the most common form of the superlative is the shorter form “happiest.” 

Examples:

  • I’m at my happiest when I’m home.
  • The day her son graduated was the happiest day of her life.
  • Carl is the most happy while James is the least happy.

Can You Say “More Happily”?

“Happily” describes something someone does in a fortunate, fitting, or happy way. “Happily” is an adverb, which is a word that modifies other words, such as verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. 

For adverbs containing the -ly suffix, we always use “more” in front of the adverb for the comparative or “most” for the superlative. By adding “more” in front of it, we are using an adverb to modify another adverb instead of an adjective.

The Comparative Adverb “More Happily”

While we use the adjective “happy” to describe a person’s state of being, we generally use the adverb “happily” to describe how someone performs an action. This means that we use the expressions “happily” or “more happily” to modify verbs.

Verbs are action words, like “run,” “swim,” and “dance.” Therefore, adding an adverb like “happily” before a verb often shows that someone is acting cheerfully.

  • She happily danced to her favorite song for the talent show.
  • He happily sang to his newborn baby.
  • They happily walked down the aisle as husband and wife.

While you can use “more” in front of “happily,” it sounds somewhat awkward, and there are very few instances you will use “more happily.”

As with other comparative forms, we can contrast someone or something at different points in time or use the phrase “more happily than” to compare two people, groups, or things.

  • They sang more happily after their first performance.
  • Our children played more happily than the neighbor’s children.

The Superlative Adverb “Most Happily”

Similar to the comparative form of “happily,” we can use the superlative form “most happily” to indicate that someone did something with the highest degree of happiness. This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.

  • He greeted his wife most happily.
  • The child opened his presents most happily.
  • They are the most happily married couple that I know.

Final Thoughts

Using comparative spelling rules, you will normally use “happier” to compare someone’s state of happiness to that of someone else or the same person’s happiness at different points in time.

“More happy” does not follow the spelling rules for a two-syllable word ending with “y,” where you will normally use -er instead of adding the word “more” in front of the word.

However, this does not mean that “more happy” is incorrect, just uncommon. For instance, you can use “more happy” when you are trying to avoid repeating “happy” or ”happily” or when trying to maintain the balance of a sentence.

Dr. Patrick Capriola

Dr. Patrick Capriola is the founder of strategiesforparents.com. He is an expert in parenting, social-emotional development, academic growth, dropout prevention, educator professional development, and navigating the school system. He earned his Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Florida in 2014. His professional experience includes serving as a classroom teacher, a student behavior specialist, a school administrator, and a coordinator of educator training at UF - providing professional development to school administrators and teachers, helping them learn to meet the academic and social-emotional needs of students. He is focused on growing strategiesforparents.com into a leading source for high-quality research-based content to help parents work through the challenges of raising a family and progressing through the school system.

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