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Kinder or More Kind: Meaning and Correct Usage

In the book called Wonder, there is a quote that reads: “Kinder than is necessary. Because [sic] it’s not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed.” This quote shows how you can use adjectives and adverbs to denote degrees of comparison, but could you write “more kind” instead?   

Kinder is the correct way to say this word. The rule for comparatives and superlatives of one-syllable, such as the adjective “kind,” is to add -er or -est suffixes to the basic form, i.e., “kinder” and “kindest.” Most two-syllable adjectives and adverbs also add -er to form the comparative. You will use “more” and “most” only with three or longer syllable words. “More kind” is only acceptable in informal situations to emphasize someone’s kindness.

Continue reading as we explore the differences between comparative and superlative forms and look more closely at when to use “kinder” or “more kind.”

 The Comparative and Superlative Forms for Kind

The writer or speaker’s intention determines the answer to the question as to which is correct: “kinder or “more kind.” 

If the purpose is to express comparison between two people or things, the answer is “kinder.” If the purpose is to express comparison where there are more than two people or things involved, the answer is “kindest.”

The word “kind” is a one-syllable modifier, an adjective that describes nouns and compares two or more nouns. 

We’ll put this assumption to the test by analyzing the beginning quote, “Kinder than is necessary. Because [sic] it’s not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed.” The quote does not say, “more kind.”

The quote, furthermore, draws on the assumption that there are various degrees of kindness; hence, a comparison is not only possible but actually necessary.

If we apply the general rule to form comparatives and superlatives of one-syllable or “short” words by adding the -er and -est suffixes to the basic form, the correct use of the comparative “kind” would be “kinder” and “kindest.” Take a look at the table below:

Jack is a kind boy.Jack is kinder than the other students.Jack is the kindest of all the students.

In this case, the adjective “kind” very effectively “boosts” language, even to the extent of a literary device. Writers often use modifiers to convey a deeper meaning and/or message to encourage readers to reflect on life.

In this quote, the writer uses the comparative form of “kind” to urge us to think about what it means to be kind — to become kinder than necessary so that the world can become a better place for all.

When You Should Use Kinder

You can use the word “kind” to talk about people or their actions (source). According to the Cambridge Dictionary, “kind” means being generous, helpful, and thinking about people’s feelings. You can also use it in the context of not causing harm or damage to the environment.

To recap, comparative adjectives compare the differences between the two objects they modify (larger, smaller, faster, higher). You’ll use them in sentences where two nouns are compared, in this pattern:

Noun (subject) + verb + comparative adjective + than + noun (object).

You can omit the second item of comparison if it is clear from the context (source).

Below are some grammatical sentence constructions to support the above explanation:

Sentence: Tom is kinder than most people.

noun (subject)+verb+comparative adj+than+noun (object)rest of sentence
Tomiskind(-er)than(most) peopleI know.

Sentence: This detergent is kinder than its competitor.

noun (subject)+verb+comparative adj+than+noun (object)
This detergentiskind(-er)thanits competitor.

When You Should Use “More Kind”

The use of “more kind” as a comparative modifier is incorrect. The only instance when we could deem the use of the phrase as acceptable, and then only in informal spoken English, is to emphasize a situation.

For example, “The Johnson-family are amazing people. They couldn’t have been more kind.”

There is no comparison drawn in this sentence. It is merely a statement to emphasize the Johnson family’s kindness. 

Another example sentence is, “Thank you for the donation, David. It is most kind of you!” In this example, “most” is an adverb that emphasizes the adjective “kind.” The word “most” in this sentence could easily have been replaced with the word “very.”

An excellent reference, which includes a collection of amusing tips on using English properly, is Dreyer’s English: A Style Guide. This resource is a delightful adage to boost your writing skills, and you can purchase it on Amazon. 

 What Do Comparatives and Superlatives Mean?

Most people are quite familiar with what it means to “compare.” People place a degree of comparison on their jobs, income, homes, children, talent, abilities, and so much more. In grammatical construction, what we really do is to compare nouns.

Adjectives are those groups of words, or “modifiers,” that give us more information about nouns or pronouns and make their meaning more exact. In this context, it makes sense that we use adjectives and adverbs to make comparisons, and we often use them in writing to “boost” language (source). 

A synonym for “boost” is “increase.” This is what we do when we use comparatives and superlatives in English. We “intensify” the meaning of the nouns or pronouns. The following sentence illustrates this statement very well:

Some people feel that meatloaf tastes good and spaghetti tastes better, but a thick, juicy steak tastes the best of all.

In the sentence above, we start off by first comparing meatloaf with spaghetti and then comparing meatloaf with spaghetti and steak. 

Breaking It Down

If we consider the three degrees of comparison, your sentence will look like this:

Degree of comparisonSentence grammatical constructionNumber of things 
Positive degreeSome people feel that meatloaf tastes goodmeatloaf (one) 
Comparative degreeand spaghetti tastes better;+ spaghetti (two) 
Superlative degreebut a thick, juicy steak tastes the best of all.+ steak (three) 

The comparative and the conjunction “than” form comparative sentences that compare two things. You will need to use the superlative form with the word “the” to compare three or more things. 

Going back to the beginning description about how to form comparatives, let’s quickly look at the comparative adjectives in the example sentence above:

Good √
Good √
Good(er) X
Better √
Good X
Best √

A few adjectives can change form entirely for the comparative degrees. We call this irregular comparison, such as in the example above. You would not say “gooder” but, rather, “better.” Similarly, you would use the term “best” to denote the superlative form of “good.”

Next, we’ll take a look at the general rules you’ll want to familiarize yourself with so that you can determine the correct construction of comparatives and superlatives in spoken and written English — and then apply those rules to the comparative and superlative form for the word “kind.”

General Rules for Comparative and Superlative Construction

You’ll write most comparative and superlative forms the same way for both one- and two-syllable modifiers, and a few simple rules will help make comparative and superlative construction easier for you to understand.

One-Syllable Modifiers

Add -er to form the comparative degree and -est to form the superlative degree:

youngyounger(the) youngest
  • Jessica and her sister Martha are still young women.
  • Jessica is younger than her sister Martha.
  • Jessica is the youngest of the sisters in the family.

Short Vowels in One-Syllable Modifiers

Double the last letter and add -er and -est to form the superlative degree:

flatflatter(the) flattest
  • The State of Illinois’s landscape is very flat.
  • The State of Minnesota’s landscape is flatt(-er) than that of the State of Illinois.
  • The State of Florida’s landscape is the flatt(-est) of all the States in America.

 Modifying Words Ending in “e”

 Add -r to form the comparative degree and -st to form the superlative degree:

largelarger(the) largest
  • The oak tree in our garden is so large it takes up most of the lawn space.
  • The oak tree in our garden is large(-r) than our neighbor’s oak tree.
  • The oak tree in our garden is the large(-st) tree in the street.

Creating Two-syllable Modifiers

There are exceptions to the rules when it comes to two-syllable words. Some of these words use “more” and “most” because they sound awkward if you add -er or -est. 

For example, words ending in -ful, such as painful and careful — you wouldn’t say “painfuler” or “carefuler.” Instead, you would say, “more/most” painful and “more/most” careful. 

Another exception is the word “clever.” People have different views on the correct form of this two-syllable modifier, but most people use and accept it in both forms, so really it is up to you to choose what you feel works best:

clevermore clevermost clever

There are quite a few words in the English language that have particular nuances. You can read and learn more about this adjectival modifier in the article, “Cleverer or More Clever: Understanding the difference.” 

Writing Words ending in -ful

painfulmore painfulmost painful
  • His wounds after the accident are painful.
  • The wound in his leg is more painful than the wound in his arm.
  • The wound in his head is the most painful.

Changing Words ending in -y

Change the “y” to “i” and add -er for the comparative form. Conversely, for the superlative form, change the “y” to “i” and add -est:

  • The English exam paper was pretty easy this term.
  • I found the Geography exam easi(-er) than the English exam.
  • You are both wrong; the Math exam was the easi(-est) exam of all.

Three or More Syllable Modifiers

Use “more” to form the comparative degree and “most” to form the superlative degree of modifiers with three or more syllables:

dan/ge/rousmore dangerousmost dangerous
  • My daughter wants to join the ski club at school, but it might be dangerous.
  • My son does scuba diving; isn’t that more dangerous?
  • Be glad she doesn’t want to become a cheerleader! That’s the most dangerous sport of them all!

In addition to regular comparisons, there are also “negative” and “irregular” comparisons. Let’s have a look at these two forms of comparative construction:

Creating Negative Comparisons

Add “less” and “least” to form negative comparisons:

tastyless tasty(the) least tasty
steadilyless steadily(the) least steadily
  • Did you find your fish tasty?
  • It was okay. It was less tasty than the fish I had last week, but not the least tasty I’ve ever had. 

Writing Irregular Comparisons

In the comparative sentence we used at the beginning of the article, we briefly mentioned modifiers that change form entirely for the comparative and superlative degrees. Below are a few more examples of these exceptions, commonly known as “irregular modifiers”:

bad/badly/illworse(the) worst
good/wellbetter(the) best
little/fewless(the) least
farfarther/further(the) farthest/furthest
oldolder/elder(the) oldest/eldest
many/muchmore(the) most

Speaker 1: The cold temperatures are bad for this time of the year.
Speaker 2: I agree. It certainly is worse than this time last year.

The weather service’s forecast is not favorable. They anticipate that the cold temperatures will be the worst ever experienced in the past three years. This article was written for

Image by Helena Lopes via Unsplash

Final Thoughts

Whether your purpose is to enhance your writing by using the modifier “kind” to a greater or even the most significant degree or to emphasize a statement, you must follow the prescribed rules to ensure that your writing and speaking are grammatically correct and meaningful.