The Grammarphobia Blog

For “better” or for “worse”

Q: I made the mistake of telling my wife she looks worse with makeup than without. She claims this means she looks bad without it, the opposite of what I intended. Who’s right? You may throw caution to the wind: we’ve been married for 48 years and our marriage won’t fail no matter what you reply. 

A: Your wife is right. And Pat is surprised she didn’t throw you out!

“Worse” is a comparative form of “bad.” (The forms are “bad” … “worse” … “worst.”) So you were saying she looks “more bad” with makeup than without.

“Better” is a comparative form of “good.” (The forms are “good” … “better” … “best.”) You should have said she looks “better” without makeup than with it. Or, to be safe, “even better”!

Pat’s advice: Memorize this! If your starting point is “good” (and in describing your wife, it had better be), then use comparative or superlative forms of “good.” 

All the best to you AND to your lovely wife.

Check out our books about the English language