Generally, we use “bad” to refer to something negative. If we’re writing or speaking, we’ll sometimes want to refer to something as worse or “more bad,” but how do we do that?
The word “badder” is incorrect. “Bad” is an irregular adjective, so you cannot double the consonant and add an -er to create the comparative form. Instead, the correct term to use is “worse.” While some dictionaries may include “badder,” this is the non-standard, slang, or obsolete comparative form of the word “bad.”
Keep reading to understand more about comparative forms, why “badder” is incorrect, and how to use the correct word, “worse.”
Is It Grammatically Correct to Say “Badder”?
It is not grammatically correct to say “badder.” This is because “bad” is an irregular adjective, and irregular adjectives don’t follow the typical patterns you find when writing degrees of comparison.
|Positive Degree||Comparative Degree||Superlative Degree|
We are looking at the comparative form in this context. When you’re comparing two things to each other and saying one has more badness than the other, do not use “badder.” Instead, you’ll want to use “worse.”
- My exam results were badder than hers. ✗
- My exam results were worse than hers. ✓
- I’d never met a badder person. ✗
- I’ve never met a worse person. ✓
In What Context Can You Use “Badder”?
Even if it may not be grammatically correct, there are some contexts where you may see others use the term “badder.” These are informal contexts where some use “badder” as slang.
Slang is a part of informal, non-standard language. However, someone would typically say this rather than writing it. Slang helps to separate and unite groups of people, and different groups will commonly have their own slang, such as people in other age groups, occupations, etc.
See, “bad” isn’t just a term that refers to something terrible or low quality. In slang, “bad” often means “good,” ironically enough (source). It can also mean tough. So, in song lyrics, you’ll often hear singers refer to themselves and others as “badder” and “the baddest.”
- “I’m sadder, I’m badder, I’m cooler.” — Tove Lo
- “Nobody badder than me, I swear.” — Ice Prince, French Montana
While you definitely wouldn’t use the above examples in an academic essay or a professional conversation, we can still understand what the speaker is saying.
When Can You Use “Badder”?
In short, you can use “badder” in informal contexts such as songs, poetry, and casual discussions with friends. “Badder” is the correct comparative form only when you’re using “bad” as slang.
“Badder” is an adjective, so it describes a noun. Therefore, if you’re using “badder,” there needs to be a noun for it to describe. Sometimes, the adjective will be attached, but you need to read closely to see what the writer describes.
- I had never met a badder woman.
- I was badder than he ever was.
In the first sentence, the meaning is pretty straightforward. The “woman” is the person who is “badder,” and this is evident because “badder” precedes who it’s describing.
The second sentence is slightly more complicated. This is because “badder” is slang, and it describes the preceding noun through the linking verb “is.” The speaker (“I”) is bragging about his own “badness.”
Just keep in mind that sometimes a singer, poet, or lyricist might use “badder” in a grammatically incorrect way for artistic effect. Let’s look at the lyric we mentioned previously:
- Nobody badder than me, I swear
First of all, if this were a grammatically correct sentence, it would have the linking verb “is” following “nobody.” Without it, the sentence is missing a verb, which makes it an incomplete sentence.
Using “Badder” in a Full Sentence
You can use “badder” in a full sentence as long as you’re writing or speaking informally and using it as slang. Conventionally, these sentences will follow grammar rules, and “badder” will function as an adjective.
Remember, if you’re using “badder,” it needs a noun to describe. This noun can be at any point in the sentence as long as the adjectives links to it.
- She was badder than a gorilla.
- I had never seen a badder outfit.
The sentences above are grammatically correct in terms of structure, except that the speaker is using “badder” as slang. But you’ll probably notice some sentences won’t be grammatically correct or will thus be incomplete or sentence fragments, such as those below:
- Badder than bad.
- She badder than Michael Jackson.
The first sentence has no subject, so we would probably assume the speaker is talking about themselves. The second sentence is missing a verb. If you wrote the sentence in a grammatically correct way, it would be “She is/was “badder” than Michael Jackson.”
What Can You Use Instead of “Badder”?
As you can tell, “badder” often sounds a bit clumsy, and you should only use it informally, so you may want to use another word such as “cooler,” “hotter,” “more attractive,” “tougher,” or “greater.” Just keep in mind in what context you’re using “bad.”
For example, sometimes, you might use “bad” to mean “good” if you use it as slang among friends. So, its comparative form would be “better,” “cooler,” or “greater.”
For example, think of the sentence below:
- The Beatles are badder than One Direction.
If you read this, you may be confused because this sentence can be both an insult or a compliment towards The Beatles.
So, if you know you’re trying to use “bad” in the positive sense, you can use any of the substitutions below. The sentence will still make sense and have the same meaning with a lower risk of confusion.
- The Beatles are better than One Direction
- The Beatles are cooler than One Direction
- The Beatles are greater than One Direction
What Does “Worse” Mean?
“Worse” is the proper comparative form of “bad.” So when you’re literally saying something is greater in terms of badness than something else, you should describe it as “worse.”
When “worse” is an adjective, you can use it to describe how something (a noun) is terrible or difficult.
- I had never had a worse partner.
- The test was worse than I expected.
In both example sentences, you can tell that “worse” is a negative term or a general unpleasant description.
“Worse” can also be an adverb. As an adverb, “worse” sometimes stands in place of “badly” and describes a verb instead of a noun (source).
- He had never sung worse.
- The rain grew worse with each passing minute.
In the first sentence, we can tell “worse” describes singing. However, in the second sentence, we may assume “worse” describes the noun “rain.” “Worse” actually describes the verb “grew,” which is why it’s an adverb.
Worse can also be a noun. In this case, “worse” refers to an event or thing that is bad.
- They promised to be together for better or worse during their vows.
- Our boss could fire us, or worse!
In What Context Can You Use “Worse”?
Because worse is neither formal nor informal, you can use it in any context. So whenever you want to describe something as “not as good” as something else, “worse” can be helpful.
For example, say you’re comparing two things you hate or don’t like very much. This can be food, items, concepts, activities, or places. You would usually format a basic sentence like this:
- (Something I hate more) is worse than (something I hate less).
So, “Gym is worse than school” is correct, depending on the speaker. If you’re referring to two things you like, then it’s preferable to use the word “better.”
For example, “Ice-cream is worse than cake” sounds like both are unenjoyable, while “cake is better than ice-cream” is more complimentary to both.
How Do You Use “Worse”?
Remember that you can use “worse” as an adjective, adverb, or noun. Typically, you use worse to compare two things and say one thing is “more” bad than something else.
So, if “worse” is in its comparative form, you know it needs to connect to the relative term it describes — a noun if it’s an adjective or a verb if it’s an adverb. If “worse” functions as a noun, it can be at multiple points in a sentence.
When Can You Use “Worse”?
When comparing two things, you can use “worse” in any sentence, be it formal or informal. You just need to consider whether “worse” functions as an adverb, adjective, or noun.
We know already that “worse” is the comparative form of “bad.” However, “bad” can function as either an adverb or an adjective, so “worse” functions the same way.
If “worse” is an adverb, the sentence needs a verb that the adverb describes. If “worse” is an adjective, it needs to describe a noun. Typically, the noun is the subject.
- It hurt worse the second time. (Adverb of degree modifying the verb “hurt”)
- She was even worse than me at soccer. (Adjective describing the subject)
On the other hand, when “worse” is a noun, it can come at multiple points in the sentence. It can be the subject or have a role later in the sentence.
- Hermione Granger once said, “We could all have been killed – or worse, expelled.”
So, you can use “worse” at various points in a sentence depending on what part of speech it is.
Using “Worse” in a Full Sentence
You can use “worse” in a full sentence, but you must keep in mind what part of speech “worse” is functioning as. This can help you understand where “worse” should fit and how to use it.
As an adjective or adverb, “worse” is typically directly attached to the noun or verb it describes.
- It was evident I had never had a worse idea (adjective).
- That felt worse than anticipated. (adverb)
However, sometimes the two words aren’t directly attached;
- “It could be worse,” I reminded her (adjective).
- Zach sang far worse than Kevin (adverb).
When Not to Use “Worse”
“Worse” isn’t the appropriate choice to use all the time. For example, because “worse” is the comparative form of “bad,” you only use it when comparing two things.
So if you’re comparing three or more things, you should use “worst” instead. This is a common mistake because both words sound pretty similar.
- Math is worse than Physics.
- Math is the worst.
In the first sentence, the speaker is comparing two subjects: Math and Physics. In the second sentence, there’s no subject limitation. The speaker could be saying math is worse than any number of bad things.
What Can You Use Instead of “Worse”?
“Worse” is quite a basic comparative word, so you may wish to branch out and use synonyms. Just keep in mind what “worse” stands for because we can substitute it with “harder,” “lousier,” or “meaner,” depending on the context.
Keep in mind certain synonyms might only apply to specific contexts. For example, if “worse” refers to difficulty, then “harder” or “more difficult” is a reasonable substitute.
- The test was worse than I anticipated.
- The test was harder than I anticipated.
- The test was more difficult than I anticipated.
On the other hand, if you’re using “worse” to say something is bad in general, words like “more awful” or “lousier” — if you’re writing informally.
- I had a worse day than yours.
- I had a more terrible day than yours.
- I had a lousier day than yours.
The words “meaner” or “ruder” can also be useful if you’re writing about a person.
- He was worse than Jim.
- He was meaner than Jim.
- He was ruder than Jim.
There are also words like “poorer,” “inferior,” or “lesser” that may work in certain contexts. If you would like to use a synonym, the best course of action is just to practice with different ones and see what works best.
However, “worse” is a valuable term, and often it conveys your message best. So you may just stick to “worse.”
The Comparative Form
Whether you’re talking or writing, comparisons are something you can’t live without. In English, when we make comparisons, we typically change the form of the adverb or the adjective.
When we alter adverbs or adjectives to compare two things, grammarians refer to this as the comparative form (source). If you’re comparing three or more things, this is the superlative form.
Typically, when you make comparisons, you can identify a pattern. However, some adjectives don’t follow these patterns and have entirely different comparatives and superlatives, so we refer to these as irregular adjectives.
Typically, If a word has two or fewer syllables, its comparative form ends in -er, -ier — if the last syllable of the base form is y — or the previous syllable +er.
If a word has three or more syllables, the comparative form is “more” + the adverb/adjective.
- Complicated→more complicated,
For irregular adjectives, rather than adding something to the end of the word, you’ll often make use of a brand new word. “Bad” is an example of an irregular adjective, but there are others.
This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
If you’d like to learn more about degrees of comparison, check out the article “Clearer or More Clear: Understanding The Proper Usage of Degrees of Comparison.” It offers you a handy guide on the different degrees and how to identify and use them.
“Bad” is an extremely versatile word. Many times, you’ll also use its comparative form, “worse,” to compare two things.
Remember, though, that “bad” is an irregular adjective. So its comparative form is always “worse” rather than “badder,” and you’ll most often find that some use “badder” as slang to mean the opposite of its dictionary definition.