Comparative form is lieber. This is how we study usually :

gern, lieber, am liebsten

On this site , it's given: https://www.verbformen.com/declension/adjectives/lieb.htm

lieb, lieber, am liebsten

So, which one is the correct version?

Additional question, lieber means prefer and rather. Hence, I think it is adverb. But, I have come across the question and answer in B1 Netzwerk book wherein lieber is considered as adjective in comparative form.

  • 3
    Both are correct. "Gern" and "lieb" and different words which happen to have identical comparatives.
    – Eller
    Jan 4 at 12:16
  • if this confuses anyone, consider that gern is akin to English to yearn and might as well be an adverb or a defective verb in the phrase "Das würde ich gern". If anyone yearns to claim that the phrse were an ellipsis of "gerne tun" beware of ellipses fanatics who have theoretically no idea but are practically correct (Ich möchte gern' Schwimmen, Ich will gern' Eis). There's obviously no adjective (* das gerneX?). Note that "tun" is largely proscribed as auxiliary verb at least. Also note that, in case gern is distantly akin to gier "greed" it has to be somewhat inadequat.
    – vectory
    Jan 5 at 6:40

Both versions are correct. We encounter here two words that happen to have the same comparative:

  • gern → lieber → am liebsten
  • lieb → lieber → am liebsten
  • Ich bitte um eine Begründung für die Abwertung! Jan 5 at 7:39

You are right, »gern« is an adverb, and it belongs to the very small class of comparable adverbs. The vast majority of adverbs is uncomparable. Only four adverbs can be compared.

There are only two adverbs in German language that have regular comparison forms:

  • wohl – wohler – am wohlsten

  • oft - öfter - am öftesten
    It is a matter of discussion if »öfter« and »am öftesten« are part of standard German. But they exist in colloquial German.

The other two comparable adverbs are:

  • bald – eher – am ehesten
    »Bald« has borrowed its comparative and superlative form the word »ehe« which today is only used as a subjunction (»Du must gehen, ehe meine Frau heimkommt.«) but in earlier times also was used as an adverb (outdated: »Aus dem ehe schmächtig Jüngling ward ein stattlich Herr.«)

  • gern – lieber – am liebsten
    Also this adverb has borrowed its comparative and superlative form another word, but in this case this other word is still in use. It is - as you found out - the adjective (not adverb!) »lieb«.

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