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Simpler or More Simple: Understanding the Comparative Form

In today’s world of technological advances, we can often wish for more simple times. Since we are comparing time periods here, we can also wish for simpler times. These both sound correct, but what is the comparative of “simple” — are times simpler or more simple?

“Simpler” and “more simple” are both legitimate comparative forms of the adjective “simple.” As with most other two-syllable adjectives where the stress does not fall on the last syllable, you can use either comparative form. Your choice will depend on intent for usage.

After reading this article, you will have learned how to use the word “simple” in its comparative form. Additionally, this article will discuss when it is appropriate to use the less common expression “more simple” and how this phrase can be useful.

What Is the Difference Between Simpler and More Simple?

While comparing something regarding its simplicity, the rules for two-syllable adjectives not ending in -y usually allow for either form. Still, most dictionaries list the shorter comparative adjective “simpler,” which is far more common. Still, in some circumstances, you might prefer to use “more simple” to add emphasis or maintain a sense of balance in the sentence (source).

Is There A Word Simpler?

Yes, “simpler” is the comparative form of the adjective “simple”. The adjective “simple” is a word that describes something as easy to understand or presenting no difficulty, according to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries (source). 

  • ‘Sim-ple→simpler or more simple
  • ‘Qui-et→quieter or more quiet

For more on two-syllable words and the comparative form, make sure you read “Quieter or More Quiet: The Comparative Degree of ‘Quiet’”

There Is No Substantial Difference

Ultimately, there is no difference between “simpler” and “more simple” regarding meaning. Since “simple” describes something that does not appear to be difficult, using the comparative form indicates you are comparing two things you find minimally difficult.

Therefore, whether you say, “Your math homework is simpler than mine” or “Your math homework is more simple than mine,” you are still comparing the simplicity of two tasks.

One is simply shorter or simpler than the other since “simpler” requires only 7 letters, while “more simple” requires 10. Since “simpler” is easier and shorter to write, it is the most common form. However, using “more simple” in a sentence can add a greater level of emphasis to the comparison.

Using “More Simple” to Add Emphasis

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While all of the following examples are correct, see if you can detect the difference in emphasis between each example using “simpler” vs. “more simple.”

  • Your explanation is simpler than that of the instructor.
  • Your explanation is more simple than that of the instructor.
  • This math is simpler than what we learned in high school.
  • This math is more simple than what we learned in high school.
  • It is simpler to remove the sprinkler system than to replace it.
  • It is more simple to remove the sprinkler system than to replace it.

Using the comparative form with “more” is less common than using “simpler.” However, using the phrase “more simple” does put a little more emphasis on what you’re comparing.

Using “More Simple” for Better Contrast

As well as adding emphasis, we might elect to use “more simple” to maintain a parallel word structure in the sentence. Consider the following examples of using “more” to contrast another descriptive term using “less.”

  • I prefer things to be more simple and less complex.
  • I’m more of the simple type and less interested in complexity.

We sometimes do this even with words that normally end in -ier based on typical spelling conventions. We covered this in “Happier or More Happy: Understanding the Comparative Form of Happy.”

Rules for Forming Comparative Adjectives

While using comparative adjectives, you will often use “than” to show a comparison between two things. In addition, you will use “the” when one thing you’re comparing relies on the other (source).

Like the word “comparative” suggests, you will be comparing two or more things with this type of adjective. We use -er or “more” to show our audience which object has more of a specific quality.

When deciding how to form the comparative adjective, the first thing you will need to consider is the number of syllables in the original adjective. 

One-Syllable Adjectives

In English, when the adjective has one syllable, you will typically add -er to form the comparative For example, “tall,” “short,” and “old” will become “taller,” “shorter,” and “older.” 

For example, consider the statement “James is taller than Sarah.” In this sentence, we compare the height of James and Sarah. Since we used the comparative “taller,” referring to height quality, you now know James has more height than Sarah.

Additionally, you will need to double the consonant when the word ends in a single consonant. A common example of this is the word “big,” whose comparative is “bigger,” not “biger. “

There are exceptions to this rule, so not all one-syllable adjectives will use -er to form the comparative. For example, adjectives such as “good” and “bad” will have irregular comparatives since “gooder” and “badder” are not grammatically correct.

For the adjective “good,” you will use the comparative “better,” and for “bad,” you will use “worse.”  

Participles are another exception from using -er to form a comparative. These words are verbs that modify a noun, thus functioning as adjectives. Participles end in any of the following suffixes: -ed, -en, -d, -t, or -ne; therefore, they will use the word “more” to form the comparative (source). 

To better understand the differences between these forms, check out our article “Clearer or More Clear: Understanding the Proper Usage of Degrees of Comparison.”

Two-Syllable Adjectives

Two-syllable adjectives generally have more flexibility since they often can accept either -er or “more.” However, this flexibility can be confusing (source).

For this reason, many English teachers recommend that English Language Learners use “more” to be safe when they feel uncertain about the comparative form for two-syllable adjectives.

However, most dictionaries will list the -er form of the comparative instead of the version with “more” preceding. In general, at least in American English, there is a preference for the shorter -er form when applicable.

Some two-syllable adjectives will need more than just the addition of -er to the ending. For example, if the adjective ends in “y,” you will need to add an “i” before adding -er. An example of this is the word “busy,” the comparative form of which is “busier,” not “busyer.”

There are other instances where there is a general preference for using “more” instead of -er for the comparative, such as two-syllable words that end in “d.” While you do not have to use “more” before comparative adjectives that end in “d,” most would agree that it generally sounds better.

While a word like “stupider” exists, you do not have to use it. Instead, you will be able to use “more stupid” if you feel it sounds better in context.

Also, two-syllable adjectives that end in vowels or vowel sounds will utilize the suffix -er instead of the word “more.” Conversely, two-syllable adjectives ending in consonants will generally use “more” over the suffix -er.

Three-Syllable Adjectives and Up

Comparative adjectives with three or more syllables will nearly always have the word “more” put before them (source). So, for example, adjectives such as “intelligent” and “important” will become “more intelligent” and “more important.” 

Therefore, “Importanter” is not correct. Because it is a three-syllable adjective, it must have the word “more” in front of it to be the comparative form. One of the few exceptions to three-syllable adjectives is those that start with the prefix -un since some will accept an -er suffix.

What Is the Superlative of Simple?

“Simplest” is the superlative form of “simple.” So, for example, if someone were to say, “Squats are the simplest workout there is,” this person is saying there is no other workout easier than squats.

While the comparative form typically compares two persons or things, we use superlative adjectives to compare one thing against all others, either to the highest or lowest quality. You will add the word “most” or the suffix -est to form these. For example, “tallest” and “shortest” are superlative adjectives.

To say your friend is the tallest girl in the class is to put her height above every other student’s height in the class. To say your friend is the shortest in the class is to put their height below every other student’s height.

Superlatives follow the same rules comparatives do in regards to syllables. One- and two-syllable adjectives will usually get the suffix -est. Adjectives with three or more syllables will generally utilize the word “most” before the word to form the superlative.

In addition, you will follow the rule of adding -i when an adjective ends in -y before forming the superlative adjective, as well as doubling the consonant at the end of a one-syllable adjective before adding the proper suffix.

Examples of using this superlative adjective are as follows.

  • This is the simplest way to explain the procedure.
  • Making eggs is the simplest cooking lesson to teach.
  • This is the simplest decision you will make in your adult life.

Can You Say “More Simply”?

You can use either “more simply” or “most simply,” depending on whether you’re comparing two actions or indicating something to the highest degree. Both phrases are perfectly acceptable and grammatically correct, though not used often.

The suffix -ly means “in a manner denoted by,” and we frequently add this suffix to adjectives to create adverbs. This does not happen in every case, and some words will receive -ly and remain adjectives. The main job of adverbs is to describe a verb.

  • Simply put all ingredients in the pan before baking, and your casserole is done.
  • The plan was simply outlined to demonstrate the ease of safe practices. 

In both above examples, you can see the adverb describes how someone performed an action — in a simple manner. 

“Simply” is an adverb that most often defines verbs, describing the quality of an action. The verb will either go before or after the adverb “simply.” Examples include the following.

  • She was simply trying to help.
  • They simply performed as they were asked to.
  • He simply asked that she not wear her shoes in the house.

When forming the comparative of “simply,” you will always precede the adverb with “more.” On the other hand, you will precede “simply” with “most” when forming the superlative.

More Simply and Most Simply

“Simply” is an adverb describing an action as unambiguous, candid, or alone. The comparative form is “more simply,” and the superlative form is “most simply.” Adverbs will not utilize suffixes for their comparative and superlative forms.

More Simply

We can use “more simply” to compare how someone says or does something as clearer or more direct than something or someone else. For example:

  • To put it more simply, they wanted a pet, just not one from the pound.
  • More simply, the car wouldn’t start because it had no fuel.

“More simply” is a way to explain something less confusingly.

Most Simply

In contrast, we might use “most simply” to describe an action as of the highest degree of simplicity.

  • He could have answered most simply with a “No.”
  • We must find a way to finish the job most simply.

In both sentences, “most simply” means to perform something in the most straightforward way possible.

Synonyms

To avoid using “more simply,” you can use the following synonyms instead. However, most of these do not convey the same level of directness or simplicity (source). This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.

  • Put another way
  • Said differently 
  • Put differently
  • Another way to say
  • In other words
  • Plainer

To replace “most simply,” you could use the following examples.

  • Easiest
  • Least complex
  • Most basic
Image by Pablo Arroyo via Unsplash

Final Thoughts

To compare the simplicity of a situation or task, you will most often use the comparative adjective “simpler.” However, the guidelines for forming the comparative for two-syllable words also allow for the use of “more simple.”

There is very little difference between using “simpler” or “more simple” other than favoring “simpler” for its conciseness or “more simple” for emphasis or balance with adjectives that have “less” before them.