If you type “more healthier” on your computer or smartphone, the chances are that whatever spell-check software you use is going to suggest that you remove “more.” This suggestion may leave you wondering why this is and what rules of English grammar govern that choice.
When it comes to “healthier” vs. “more healthier,” there is only one correct answer, and that is healthier. The convention in English is for words with two or fewer syllables to receive the suffix -er as in “healthier.” While the expression “more healthy” is acceptable, “more healthier” is not because the term “healthier” is already modified and does not require the adverb “more.”
Comparatives and superlatives are two grammar structures that are crucial to the English language. However, like most elements of English grammar, they are riddled with irregularities and exceptions. This article will explore the word “health” and its various comparative and superlative forms.
Origin and Meaning of Health and Healthier
We derive our term “health” from the old English word hælþ, which refers to a state of being whole, sound, or well (source). Englishmen later adapted the term in Middle English to refer to physical health as well as to happiness, welfare, prosperity, and safety.
Around the 1590s, “health” became a way to toast a person as in “to your good health.”
In 1848, people used the term to refer to foods that are healthy, as in the term “health foods.” Today, “health” is a noun that we use to refer to one’s physical condition being free from disease or illness.
The patient is in excellent health for his age.
Interestingly, the video game industry uses the term “health” to refer to a characters’ life span.
Healthy and Healthier
The adjective “healthy” comes from the term “health,” and its first use dates back to the 1550s, describing a person in “a sound state.” Earlier, in the 1530s, a similar term “healthsome” described a state considered “conducive to health.”
What Is the Comparative Form of Healthy?
The term “healthier” is the comparative form of the term “healthy,” meaning we use it when we are making a comparison.
Apples are healthier than cupcakes.
Doctors have healthier habits than most people.
I feel much healthier now that I’ve seen the doctor.
So Is It Healthier or More Healthy?
Often, when we are talking about comparative adjectives, the English Language tends to prefer the simplest form of the expression as well as what is easiest to say.
When comparing “healthier” and “more healthy,” native English speakers generally accept both forms. This is because it meets the convention of two or fewer syllables, while the expression “more healthier” does not. We will explore this convention in greater depth later on in our discussion.
When hearing English speakers talk, you may note that they switch between terms such as “healthier” and “more healthy.” The reason for this often comes down to personal preference.
In some people’s opinion, “healthier” is just much simpler and easier to say than “more healthy.” However, people will often use the adverb to place extra emphasis on the adjective.
Mary is healthier than Tom.
Mary is more healthy than Tom.
Native English speakers will accept both of these examples. However, we would use the second example to put additional emphasis on the fact that Mary is in better condition than Tom.
We can see another good example in the word “humble.” Many English speakers will choose to say “much more humble” rather than “humbler” because they wish to emphasize that someone is very humble.
As you now know from our above discussion, both “healthier” and “more healthy” are acceptable terms. However, because this is not always the case, it’s good to have a firm understanding of how comparatives, superlatives, and the adverbs “more” and “most” apply to specific words.
Comparatives and Superlatives
To begin, let’s first look at comparative adjectives and superlative adjectives. We can examine the general rule and then take the discussion in a more detailed direction relating to our topic on “healthier” vs. “more healthier.”
We use comparative adjectives either to compare one thing to another or to show change (source).
We use the preposition “than” to show comparison. When we want to describe a change, we link the two comparison adjectives with the conjunction “and.” To form a comparative adjective, we use the suffix -er.
A salad is healthier than a hamburger.
That car is faster than that bicycle.
The boy’s smile grew bigger and bigger.
The birds began to fly higher and higher.
In English, we use superlatives to show the greatest degree of a certain quality. For example, the superlative form of “rich” is “the richest” (source).
To form a superlative adjective, we use the suffix -est. When dealing with the superlative form, we always use the determiner “the.”
I am the youngest of six children.
The day I got married was the happiest day of my life.
We usually add -er and -est to one-syllable words to make comparatives and superlatives.
When we form comparatives and superlatives, we need to take special note of the spelling changes. If you consider the following example, you can see how the -y changes to an -i.
healthy → healthier → healthiest
In English, there are also common irregular forms to take note of. Here are some common examples.
good → better → the best
bad → worse → the worst
far → further → the furthest
far → farther → the farthest
If you’d like to read more about these irregular forms of comparatives and superlatives, you can take a look at this article on furthest vs. farthest.
As mentioned, English is packed with exceptions to the rules, and this instance is no different. The convention is that all single- and double-syllable words receive the prefix -er, but this is not always the case.
Sometimes, the prefix -er can make words sound really awkward to pronounce, even if this nuance may only sound strange to someone well-versed in the English language.
sure – surer
real – realer
right – righter
A native English speaker would never use any of the above examples. Instead, they would use the adverb “more.”
sure – more sure
real – more real
right – more right
Another reason is when you wish to go beyond simple comparisons, which may include a comparison of more than two things.
(A) Breakfast cereal is healthy, (B) breakfast cereal with fat-free milk is healthier, and (C) sugar-free breakfast cereal with fat-free milk is even healthier.
(A) Senegal is hot, (B) Kiribati is hotter, and (C) Mali is even hotter.
In the first example, the speaker may choose not to use the superlative form, healthiest, because that suggests no food outdoes C. Similarly, in the second example, it might imply no country surpasses C regarding heat.
Simply put, the more complex the comparison, the more acceptable it is to use the adverb “more” rather than the comparative or superlative form.
Let’s now look at other instances in which we use “more” and “most.”
When to Use More and Most?
As you can see, we traditionally give the suffix -er to adjectives with one or two syllables. However, longer adjectives, as well as those with two syllables (or more) that don’t end in a -y or -ly, receive the adverb “more” when using comparative adjectives and “most” when dealing with superlative adjectives.
It’s always good to be careful when walking on wet floors.
You should be more careful.
My mom is the most careful person I know.
This music is peaceful.
Classical music is more peaceful than rock music.
Many consider Switzerland to be the most peaceful country.
That girl is beautiful.
I’ve never seen anyone more beautiful than that girl.
She is easily the most beautiful girl in the world.
There are, however, a few one-syllable words that also use the adverb “more” and “most.”
more real – most real
more right – most right
There are conventions in English that determine the comparative or superlative form and guide us when using the adverbs “more” and “most.” These conventions depend on the words’ syllable structure. As such, it’s good to know how to determine how many syllables are in a word.
Determining How Many Syllables a Word Has
When determining whether a word receives the suffix -er or the adverb “more,” it’s important to know how to break up a word into its syllables.
While healthy has two syllables, heal-thy, we know that both forms of the word “healthier” and “more healthy” are acceptable to use.
However, this isn’t always the case, so we should know how to determine the syllables in a word. Let’s first begin by explaining what a syllable is and how it functions to create words.
A syllable is a single unit of sound that creates meaning. We join consonants together with vowels to make syllables (source). What is essential to remember is that a syllable unit can only have one sound no matter how many letters it contains.
These are words with only one syllable. We call these words monosyllabic, mono meaning “one,” which we can break down into three categories: single vowel sounds, double vowels with a single sound, and words that end in the silent “e.”
Single Vowel Sounds: These words only have one vowel that makes a single sound.
|A single vowel “a” joins consonants “f” and “n.”
|The vowel “y” follows consonants “t” and “r.” In this instance, the “y” functions as a vowel because it makes the long “i” sound.
Double vowels with a single sound: these words have two (double) vowels that make one sound.
|Double vowels “a” and “i” (considered to be one vowel sound that makes the long “a” sound) join the consonants “t,” “r,” and “n.”
|The double vowel “ee” (considered to be one one vowel sound that makes the long “e” sound) follows the consonants “f” and “r.”
Words ending in the silent “e”: the “e” exists at the end of the word and modifies the vowel sound.
|The vowel “a” joins the consonants “c” and “n.” The “e” at the end of the word modifies the vowel to make it a long “a” sound.
|The vowel “i” joins the consonants “f” and “l.” The “e” at the end of the word modifies the vowel to make it a long “i” sound.
Polysyllabic words consist of one or more syllables. We can examine the table below to understand how polysyllabic words form.
wa / ter
frown / ing
ba / na / na
The word “water” contains two syllablesIt has three consonants and two vowels.
The first syllable is “wa,” which combines one consonant and one vowel.
The second syllable is “ter,” which combines two syllables and one vowel.
|The word “frowning” is made up of two syllables. There are six consonants and two vowels.
The first syllable, “frown,” forms by combining the four constants with one vowel sound, “o.”The second syllable forms by combining two consonants with the vowel sound “i.”
|The word “banana” contains three syllables. There are three consonants and three vowels.
The first syllable forms with the consonant “b” and vowel sound “a.”
The second and third syllables form with the consonant “n” and vowel sound “a.”
When learning any language, the goal is always to be able to talk like a native speaker. A firm grasp on comparatives and superlatives will help you understand when to use the prefixes -er and -est and when to use the adverbs “more” and “most.”
Through a clear understanding of these concepts, you should then recognize why expressions such as “more healthier” are incorrect and why “more healthy” is the accepted expression.