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The Durango Wordsmith

  /  Grammar Grams   /  Is “Unsteadier” a Word?
Is unsteadier a word? Grammar Gram by The Durango Wordsmith

Grammar Gram: Grammar for the Visual Learner

Is “unsteadier” a word?

This is a legitimate question since it is not in the dictionary. However, upon closer study, you may develop another opinion.

The short answer, is YES, “unsteadier” can actually be used as a word. However, it is hard to say, so often we use the alternative, “more unsteady.”

Here’s why:

When we compare two objects, we either add -er to the end or add the word more at the beginning.

Generally, if the word has three or more syllables, we use the word more. For example, we say “more conclusive,” not “conclusiver.” Adding the –er to a word with three or more syllables just sounds clunky.

In fact, most words with just two-syllables take the word more too. For example, “more hopeless” is better than “hopelesser.”

HOWEVER, there are exceptions to this rule.

According to section 124, page 66 of The Chicago Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation by Bryan A. Garner, “Among the exceptional three-syllable positive forms that make synthetic comparatives are unlucky {unluckier} and unsteady {unsteadier}. Yet more unlucky and more unsteady are available as periphrastic alternatives. . . . A two-syllable adjective ending in -er, -le, -ow, -ure, or -y can typically use either the -er suffix or more—unless it is prefixed with un- {unluckier} {unsteadier}.

Is unsteadier a word? Grammar Gram Answer by The Durango Wordsmith

So, there you have it. You may use the word “unsteadier” in a conversation, and no one can tell you that you are wrong.