Adjectives and Adverbs


The Middle English inflection of adjectives is much simpler than the system in Old English. The only difference between adjectival forms involve the use of final e. There are two fundamental principles for such use: adjectives in what is known as the “weak” declension add -e after definite articles; genitives; and before nouns in the vocative case (the case used for direct address: ‘O blinde world, O blinde entencioun!’) (TC 1.211). Adjectives of the “strong” declension do not add -e (‘A yong knight’). All adjectives add -e in the plural (‘Two yonge knightes’).  The following rules govern these differences:

  • Adjectives are weak: after a determiner (definite article, genitive pronoun, or noun); in direct address
  • Adjectives are strong: without a determiner; or in the predicate adjective position, i.e., “the man is old”

Comparative Adjectives

Comparative and superlative adjectives generally add -er and -est to the stem, as in the first set of examples here. There are also irregular forms which we largely retain in modern English :

muche(l)momeste(many, more, most)
lyte(l)lasse/lesseleeste(small, smaller, smallest)


Most Middle English adverbs are formed by adding -e to an adjective (faire, faste, hoote, lowe). Words borrowed from the French add -ly, -li (playnly); and words of Germanic origins add -liche (rudeliche).