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There are three degrees of adjectives: positive (big), comparative (bigger) and superlative (biggest). By nature, comparatives imply the existence of two contrasting entities and superlatives that of at least three.
Comparatives and superlatives in Latin are formed in the following way:
Note that these formulae are consistent across declensional lines. That is, no matter the declension of the original adjective, all comparatives belong to third declension and all superlatives to first/second declension.
Compared to superlatives, the declension of comparatives is more complex:
Finally, the translation and usage of comparatives and superlatives are somewhat broader in Latin than English. As well as meaning "X-er" or "more X," comparatives can mean "somewhat X," "rather X" or "too X," i.e. "X in some way above the positive degree." In similar fashion, the superlative "most X" or "X-est" can mean "very X."
Latin has two ways of denoting "than." Wheelock introduces only one in this chapter, the more common one which employs quam. The other, the ablative of comparison, is outlined in the Supplementary Syntax at the back of the book (pp. 374-379). You should learn both.
We will refer to the comparative construction which uses quam as "quam + same case" because the noun following quam (the thing being compared) is put in the "same case" in Latin as the noun to which it is being compared. Therefore, if asked "What case and why?" in reference to the noun following quam—for example, eam amo plus quam oculos meos ("I love her more than my eyes") with the question "What case is oculos and why?"—the correct answer is "Accusative, quam + same case (in this instance, the same case as the direct object eam)."
The ablative of comparison is, in fact, a simpler construction than quam + same case—no conjunction and no variable case depending on the thing to which the comparison is being made—when associated with a comparative, the ablative simply connotes "than" (see Wheelock, p. 377). Practice changing the sentences in this chapter which have quam + same case constructions to the ablative of comparison.
Quam + superlative = "as X as possible." See quam in the vocabulary on p. 124.
quidam: = the interrogative base qui- (pronoun or adjective) + the suffix -dam. Thus, it appears to decline down the middle of the word.
pro: This preposition takes the ablative case.
vito: To Wheelock's admonition against confusing forms of vito and vivo, add vita.
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