So you want to move to Mars?

(English comparatives and superlatives)

Level: B1 to C1

Written and compiled by Benedicte Gravrand, English trainer at The Language House

 

Chances are, one of you is going to Mars.

Several public space agencies – NASA, ESA, Roscosmos, ISRO and the CNSA – and private organisations – SpaceX, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing – are researching the Mars mission project. The consensus is that we will be able to colonise Mars in the 2030s or 2040s.

If you have read The Martian, an excellent science fiction book by Andy Weir – or watched the movie, which is for once just as good as the book – you’ll know that moving to Mars is not like moving to Texas. You will need more than a suitcase and a green card. You will need oxygen, fuel, water, food, seeds to grow food, building material, spacesuits, and much more. You will also need patience. It will take about nine months to get there. And you will need mementos of Earth, as this will be a one-way trip (no return).

Mars is a chance to build a new culture. People will lead a different kind of life, with different temperatures, lower gravity, different types of housing, different skies and longer years. Children born on Mars will be Martians.

The experiment could go well or it could go wrong. I hope I’ll still be alive to see the intrepid souls go on that great voyage to new territories.

 

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What you need to know about Mars

 

 

 

Mars and Earth: a friendly comparative guide

 

Let’s compare Mars and Earth and the rest of the solar system.

Grammar: Comparatives and superlatives – general rules

To make a comparison using small adjective (one syllable), add -er (or -ier) at the end of the adjective and “than”:

  • Mars is smaller than Earth
  • I am feeling happier now

If you use a longer adjective (two syllables or more) in a comparison, add “more” and “than”:

  • Mars is more interesting than Mercury

Use “the” in a comparison to show that one thing depends on another:

  • The colder it gets, the more dangerous it becomes

In superlatives, add -est (or -iest, as in “happiest”) at the end of smaller adjectives, or add “the most” or “the least” in front of longer adjectives. “Most” is the superlative form of “much” and “many”; “least” is the superlative form of “little”.

  • The lowest temperature on Mars is -140°C
  • Mars is the most interesting planet in the solar system
  • Pluto is the least luminous planet
  • Patrick does the least work in the office (“less” or “the least” are used with uncountable nouns, like money, water, etc.)
  • He makes the fewest mistakes (“fewer” or “the fewest” (few: some, but not many) are used with countable nouns) – NOT “he makes the least mistakes”.

Please note, as well as “little” and “much/many”, these adjectives are irregular:

  • Good: Mars is better than Mercury; Mars is the best (planet)
  • Bad: Pluto is worse than Neptune; Pluto is the worst
  • Far: Mars is farther away from the Sun than Earth is; Pluto is the farthest (or further/furthest)

If the last letter of the adjective is a consonant (b, d, g, t, etc.), it is doubled (example: big, bigger, the biggest):

  • Mars is the reddest planet of the solar system

We use “as” + adjective/adverb + “as” to compare things that are equal. Use “not as” to compare things that are not equal:

  • The weather this summer is as hot as last year
  • Mars is not as big as Earth

We can use “like” (a preposition) to say some things are similar.

  • Poles on Mars are covered with ice, just like the poles on Earth

We can use “whereas” (a conjunction) to compare differences:

  • Mars has two moons whereas Earth only has one

Practice your comparatives and superlatives:

Fill in the gaps with the appropriate adjectives, choosing from the list below, in the comparative or superlative form, or with “like” or “whereas”. The first one has been done for you as an example.

__________________________________________________

 

Small (x2)    red    like     whereas     little     high       low     

high     thin     long       high     large      studied

__________________________________________________

 

  1. Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun; Mercury, Venus and Earth are closer to the Sun than Mars
  2. Mars is the second planet in the solar system; Mercury is … … . Mars is a sixth of Earth’s volume
  3. Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos, Earth has only one moon
  4. The surface gravity on Mars is than the surface gravity on Earth; that means you could jump three times as on Mars, and if you weigh 50 kg on Earth, you would weigh only 19 kg on Mars.
  5. A year on Mars is … … a year on Earth, almost twice as long; it is equivalent to 687 Earth-days
  6. … … temperature on Mars is -140°C (degrees centigrade)
  7. … … temperature is +30°C
  8. The atmosphere on Mars is that on Earth: carbon dioxide (CO2) makes up 96% of the atmosphere, and 0.0415% on Earth
  9. Sunsets on Mars are blue, while during the day, the sky is pinkish-red
  10. On Mars, the Sun appears about half the size it does on Earth
  11. The poles on Mars are covered with ice, just on Earth
  12. … … mountain in the solar system – as far as we know – is on Mars; it is called Olympus Mons; it is 21km high and 600km in diameter
  13. Mars has … … dust storms in the solar system. They can last for months and cover the entire planet
  14. 60 missions (including orbiters, landers and rovers) have been sent to Mars. So far, only 28 have reached their target. Currently, three missions are on their way to Mars. That’s because Earth and Mars are relatively close at the moment.
  15. Mars is … … planet of the solar system. The ancient Greeks called the planet Ares after their god of war; the ancient Romans then did likewise, associating the planet’s blood-red colour with their own god of war Mars. Interestingly, according to Space Facts, other ancient cultures also focused on colour – to China’s astronomers it was ‘the fire star’, while Egyptian priests called it ‘the red one’. The red colour on Mars is due to the surface being rich in iron oxide.
  16. Mars is … … … planet of the solar system – except, of course, for Earth.

 

_____________

 

Check your answers

 

  1. Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun; Mercury, Venus and Earth are closer to the Sun than Mars
  2. Mars is the second smallest planet in the solar system; Mercury is the smallest. Mars is a sixth of Earth’s volume
  3. Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos, whereas Earth has only one moon
  4. The surface gravity on Mars is less than the surface gravity on Earth; that means you could jump three times as high on Mars, and if you weigh 50 kg on Earth, you would weigh only 19 kg on Mars.
  5. A year on Mars is longer than a year on Earth, almost twice as long; it is equivalent to 687 Earth-days
  6. The lowest temperature on Mars is -140°C (degrees centigrade)
  7. The highest temperature is +30°C
  8. The atmosphere on Mars is thinner than that on Earth: carbon dioxide (CO2) makes up 96% of the atmosphere, and 0.0415% on Earth
  9. Sunsets on Mars are blue, while during the day, the sky is pinkish-red
  10. On Mars, the Sun appears about half the size it does on Earth
  11. The poles on Mars are covered with ice, just like on Earth
  12. The highest mountain in the solar system – as far as we know – is on Mars; it is called Olympus Mons; it is 21km high and 600km in diameter
  13. Mars has the largest dust storms in the solar system. They can last for months and cover the entire planet
  14. 60 missions (including orbiters, landers and rovers) have been sent to Mars. So far, only 28 have reached their target. Currently, three missions are on their way to Mars. That’s because Earth and Mars are relatively close at the moment.
  15. Mars is the reddest planet of the solar system. The ancient Greeks called the planet Ares after their god of war; the ancient Romans then did likewise, associating the planet’s blood-red colour with their own god of war Mars. Interestingly, according to Space Facts, other ancient cultures also focused on colour – to China’s astronomers it was ‘the fire star’, while Egyptian priests called it ‘the red one’. The red colour on Mars is due to the surface being rich in iron oxide.
  16. Mars is the most studied planet of the solar system – except, of course, for Earth.

 

 

The Martian – official trailer

Garry Littman

Garry Littman

Garry Littman est le fondateur de The Language House à Genève. The Language House propose des coachings d'anglais à Genève pour les particuliers et les entreprises, ainsi que des cours intensifs d'anglais dans les pays anglophones. Garry a été journaliste en Australie et en Asie, il a travaillé pour World Radio Switzerland.

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