The superlative as a degree of comparison

(Using the superlative of adjectives and adverbs)

Table of contents – superlative

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Formation and use of the superlative
  2. Particularities of the superlative
  3. Further explanations and exercises

How is the superlative formed and used in English?

The superlative indicates the maximum form of a specific characteristic and is, therefore, also called the greatest degree of comparison regarding adjectives and adverbs. Thus, there is nothing ‘above’ or ‘higher’, which means no further intensification of the respective characteristic is possible. In English grammar, the two parts of speech adjectives and adverbs can be compared. They are usually preceded by the article ‘the’ when used in their superlative form.

  • The superlative (highest or third degree) is formed in two ways: by using ‘most’ (for some disyllabic and all tri- and polysyllabic adjectives as well as most adverbs) or by appending ‘-est’ (for all monosyllabic and most disyllabic adjectives and some adverbs). Consider the following in detail:
    • On the one hand, the superlative can be made with ‘most’. Is this the case, the definite article ‘the’ is placed in front of it very often:
      • Adjectives:
        • “My wife is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”
        • “A lot of people think money is the most important thing.”
      • Adverbs usually end in ‘-ly’ and are then compared with ‘mostas well:
        • “I’m going to find the way. He explained it to me most exactly.”
        • “The accident is most likely to happen.”
    • On the other hand, the superlative is constructed by appending the syllable ‘-est’ to the basic form. In some cases, further changes in spelling may occur:
      • Adjectives:
        • “We should take the earliest flight tomorrow morning.”
        • “My youngest sister is six years old.”
      • Adverbs rarely follow this way of comparison (this only happens if it is an adverb with a special form):
        • “The winner is the fastest-running man in the world.”
        • “Joanna is the hardest-working person in the office.”

What are the particularities of the superlative?

Besides the regular way of forming the superlative with ‘-est’ or ‘most’, some superlative adjectives that have particular forms exist. Consequently, there is no fixed rule to establish their superlative. The forms have to be learned.

  • “Do you like the singer? – Yes, I think he’s the best.”
  • “The problem you’re talking about is the worst one.”
    • bad (positive) → worse (comparative) → worst (superlative)

Information: Take a look at adjectives with special forms if you require details about the irregular features.

Further explanations related to the ‘Superlative in English’

The following explanations relate to the topic ‘Superlative of adjectives and adverbs – the greatest degree of comparison’ and might help you as well: