Clearer or more clear?

Clearer is the correct comparative adjective for describing something as “more clear.” If something is the “most clear,” use superlative “clearest.”

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What is the difference between clearer and more clear?

The adjective clear describes something as transparent, easy to understand, or uncluttered. But if something is “especially clear” when compared to another, should we use “clearer” or “more clear”? 

Is clearer even a word?

Native speakers are always surprised to learn how “clearer” is, in fact, a real word. To start, English uses clearer as a comparative adjective of “clear” to mean “more clear.” However, we also use “clearer” as a noun to describe someone who ‘declutters’ or ‘clears’ an area. 

But while we use “clearer” to mean ‘more clear,’ that doesn’t mean we should write “more clear” in a formal sentence. Why? Because “clearer” is already the established comparative form. As explained by Garner’s Modern English Usage

“…if a word ordinarily takes either the -er or the -est suffix–– and that formation sounds more natural–– it’s poor style to use the two-word form with more or most.” (Garner 187)

What are comparative adjectives?

Comparative adjectives exist to compare two or more objects they modify in a sentence, where one noun is ‘more so’ than the other. For example, 

The dog is small, but the cat is smaller.” 

For the sentence above, we compare the size of a dog and cat (two nouns) using the adjective “small.” But since the cat is ‘more small’ than the dog, you would use the comparative “smaller” instead. 

As you might have noticed, comparative adjectives typically end adjectives with the suffix -er or -ier such as bigger, cleaner, nicer, or prettier. But when adjectives end with the suffix -est, that means they are in their superlative form. 

Similarly to a comparative adjective, a superlative compares one noun against all other nouns as ‘the most’ or the ‘highest form’ of that adjective. For example,  

“Linda is the prettiest girl in school.” 

For this sentence, we are comparing Linda (a noun) to other girls (nouns) at school. The sentence implies how all of the girls at school are pretty, but since Linda is the “prettiest,” she is the ‘most pretty’ of them all.  

What is the comparative and superlative of clear?

Circling back to our original adjective, clear, we write the comparative and superlative forms as such: 

  • Adjective: Clear
  • Comparative: Clearer
  • Superlative: Clearest

When to use more or most?

There are circumstances when we need to use determiners like ‘more’ or ‘most,’ and that’s when an adjective contains three (sometimes two) or more syllables. For example, 

  • More honest (two syllables)
  • More beautiful (three syllables)
  • More pretentious (three syllables)
  • More quantifiable (five syllables)

Some adjectives also provide the option of using a comparative and superlative form in addition to “more” or “most” (187). For example: 

  • Common (adj.): commoner, commonest, or more/most common. 
  • Naive (adj.): Naiver, naivest, or more/most naive. 

What is the meaning of clearer?

The word clearer is the comparative form of the adjective “clear.” Additional word forms of “clear” include “clearest” (superlative), “clearly” (adverb), and “clearable” (adjective). 

Based on The New Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of clear, we can rephrase the meaning of clearer as: 

1. More perceivable, understandable, or interpretable in a way that is more obvious, less unambiguous, and with absolutely no doubt or confusion. For example,

  • “She spoke clearer after completing her speech therapy class.” 
  • “After we have a clearer idea of what to expect, we will let you know.”
  • “Your revised essay is much clearer than the first and second drafts.” 
  • “Our last professor was clearer about classroom expectations than our current one.”

2. More physically transparent. For example,

  • “The window is clearer after you clean it.” 
  • “Mother’s diamond ring is clearer than grandma’s.” 
  • “The new microscope lens allows us to see organisms closer and clearer than ever.” 

3. More free of clouds, mist, rain, or haze. For example,

  • “The sky should be clearer today than it was yesterday.”
  • “The South Pacific is clearer than the Pacific Northwest.” 
  • “You can see clearer 20 ft up the mountain.” 

4. Less blemished skin. For example,

  • “My face is clearer because I stopped consuming sugar.” 
  • “Their skin is clearer than mine.” 

5. Freer of any obstructions or unwanted objects, feelings, or conditions. For example,

  • “The garage is clearer now that I’ve donated our storage.” 
  • “My conscience is clearer because I admitted my wrongdoings.”
  • “Her blood tests are clearer now, but there are still trace amounts of white blood cells.”

Synonyms of clear

Apparent, bright, certain, conclusive, clear-cut, crystal, crystalline, decisive, distinct, evident, fair, faultless, free, implicit, luminous, obvious, open, plain, see-through, straightforward, sure, transparent, unambiguous, unambivalent, unmistakable. 

Antonyms of clear

Ambiguous, blocked, clogged, clouded, cryptic, dark, doubtful, dubious, equivocal, guilty, hesitant, inconclusive, indecisive, indistinct, mysterious, nonobvious, obscure, stormy, stuffed, unapparent, uncertain, unclarified, unclear, wavering.

Etymology of clear

According to The American Heritage Dictionary, the word clear comes from Middle English cler via Old French. However, the original source stems from Latin clārus, where it meant ‘clear’ or ‘bright.’ 

General rules for using clear, clearer, and clearest in a sentence

#1. Stay clear of “more clear” or “most clear

Use comparative “clearer” or superlative “clearest instead of “more clear” or “most clear.” 

Correct: 

  • “The weatherman said to expect clearer skies tomorrow.” 
  • “My English teacher said I’m the clearest writer in class.” 

Incorrect: 

  • “Grammarly makes my writing more clear by providing alternate word choices.” 
  • “Google Ngrams is the most clearest software for linguistic timelines.” 

#2. Less is more with “unclear” and “less clear

Avoid using “less” or “least” with “clearer” or “clearest.” Use “unclear,” “less clear,” or “least clear” instead. 

Correct: 

  • “It is less clear if The United States invented hamburgers or not.”
  • “My English teacher’s exam was the least clear of all my finals.” 

Incorrect: 

  • “His handwriting was less clearer to read than yours.”
  • “My essay on traditional U.S. cuisines was the least clearest of all.” 

Additional reading: clearer or more clear?

If you’ve made it this far, you clearly have an interest in English grammar. The Word Counter posts new lessons every week for topics, such as: 

Test Yourself!

How clear is your understanding of “clear vs. more clear”? Test your grammar-know-how with the following multiple-choice test. 

  1. True or false: American English uses “more clear” while British English prefers “clearer.” 
    a. True
    b. False
  2. The structural difference between “clear,” “clearer,” and “clearest” involves ___________.
    a. Apostrophes
    b. Suffixes
    c. Hyphens
    d. Prefixes
  3. One-syllable adjectives end with ___________ for the comparative degree. 
    a. -ier
    b. -er
    c. -est
    d. A or B
  4. Superlative adjectives consist of ___________.
    a. One-syllable words
    b. Two-syllable words
    c. Three-syllable words
    d. Two-to-three syllable words or more 
  5. The adverbial form of “clear” is ___________.
    a. Clearest
    b. Clearer
    c. Clearly
    d. Clearable
  6. Which of the following is an incorrect comparative adjective? 
    a. Cleverer
    b. Horribler
    c. Incredibler
    d. Funniest 

Answers

  1. B
  2. B
  3. D
  4. D
  5. C
  6. C

Sources

  1. Clear.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th ed., Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2020. 
  2. Clear.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2020.
  3. “Clear.” The New Oxford American Dictionary, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 322.
  4. Garner, B. “Comparatives and superlatives.” Garner’s Modern American Usage, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 187. 
  5. The comparative and the superlative.” Resources for Learning English, EF Education First, 2020.