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Suffixes on short form comparatives can be ше (лучше, больше) or же (дороже, моложе) or ще (проще, чище) or че (легче, крепче). Is there any rule which determines which one should be used?

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The question is great and rather complicated.

  1. First of all, there are different ways to form a comparative only from qualitative adjectives. A compound form with более in front of the adjective and the so-called synthetic or simple forms with the following endings: -ее/ей, -е and -ше. I will not consider the analytical form with более, but it certainly should be mentioned that some quality adjectives cannot have simple comparative forms. They are the adjectives with suffixes -ск-, -ов-, -н-, -л- (they have no short forms either):

дружеский, массовый, кровный, исхудалый. Сюда же относятся прилагательные с суффиксом -к-: плавкий, громоздкий, тяжкий, отдельные непроизводные слова: плоский, ветхий, гордый, отлогий, все слова, обозначающие масти животных: каурый, саврасый.

  1. We should memorize some adjectives which have а) suppletive forms in many languages.

хороший – лучше, плохой – хуже, малый – меньше, дешевый – дешевле (compare: good – better, bad – worse)

b) a so-called "unproductive" suffix -ше which is used with a limited group of adjectives. Memorize:

далекий – дальше, ранний – раньше, тонкий – тоньше; долгий – дольше, маленький –меньше.

  1. The majority of adjectives use the productive -ее/-ей.

светлый – светл-ее, бережливый – бережлив-ее.

  1. The ending is used only after word stems (основа слова) ending with sounds д, т, ст, г, к, х, с, з This is complicated, because adjectives drop -ок- and -к-, and there's an alteration of these sounds.

з→ж, с→ш, х→ш, г→ж, ст→щ, д→ж, т→ч, к→ч

Низкий: низ-к-ий – ниже. (-к- is dropped and з changes into ж ), высокий: выс-ок-ий – выше (-ок -is dropped and с changes into ш).

More examples :

сухой – суше, тугой – туже, частый – чаще, молодой – моложе, богатый – богаче, крепкий – крепче

It seems we should distinguish when -к- belongs to the root and is changed respectively into ч (легкий – легче) and when it doesn't and can be dropped (низкий – низ-к-ий – ниже). I believe it's easier to memorize such adjectives.

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