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Comparison by comparative, superlative and equative degree

Adjective phrases are characteristically used for comparison. Three types of comparison can be distinguished, namely comparative, superlative and equative:

  • Comparative:
    Die knapie hardloop vinniger as 'n rot.
    the boy·DIM run faster PTCL.SIMT a rat
    The nipper runs faster than a rat.
  • Superlative:
    wat die vinnigste kon hardloop
    that.REL the fastest can.AUX.MOD.PRT run
    who could run the fastest
  • Equative:
    so vinnig soos weerlig
    PTCL.SIMT fast PTCL.SIMT lightning


In contrast to the positive degree, which represents the unmarked or basic form of the adjective, two degrees of comparison can be identified, namely the comparative and the superlative degrees. Please refer to the first and second examples in the previous section.

The positive form may in some cases, in addition to the predicative, attributive and adverbial positions in a sentence, also occur in conjunction with meer more and mees most in periphrastic constructions to express the comparative and superlative degrees. Examples of each type, using the adjective beskeie modest, are given below:

Positive predicative:

Jy's verniet so beskeie.
you.be.PRS for.no.reason so modest
Don't be so modest.

Positive attributive:

Ek is trots op my beskeie bydrae. (Republikein, 9/11/2007)
I be.PRS proud on my modest contribution
I am proud of my modest contribution.

Positive adverbial:

Hy glimlag beskeie.
He smiles modestly.

Periphrastic comparative:

Mense wat na posisie en aansien streef, verwerp dalk meer beskeie keuses.
people that.REL to position and prestige aspire, reject maybe more modest choices
People who aspire to position and prestige, possibly reject more modest choices.

Periphrastic superlative:

Sy is die mees beskeie mens wat ek ken.
she be.PRS the most modest person that.REL I know
She is the most modest person I know

In addition to the positive, adverbial, comparative and superlative, a third type could be posited, namely equative, which could take different forms, of which one is exemplified in (3). Here, the example of so ... soos as ... as, in the expression so vinnig soos weerlig as fast as lightning was used. However, the equative often also occurs in conjunction with a preceding intensifier net just, and soos as is replaced by as, which semantically practically equivalent to soos. (An interesting parallel with the Dutch equivalent of zoos, namely zoals, could be indicated, which highlights the proximity of these two pendants.) Two examples of net so ... as just as ... as are given below:

Die Crusaders is net so goed as ons.
the Crusaders be.PRS just as good PTCL.SIMT we
The Crusaders are just as good as we are.
Die meisiekind is wragtig net so slim as wat sy mooi is.
the girl.child be.PRS truly just as clever PTCL.SIMT that.REL she beautiful is
The girl is truly just as clever as she is beautiful.
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