- 1 What are superlatives? (with examples)
- 2 Examples of Superlatives
- 3 Degrees of Comparison
- 4 Forming Superlatives
- 5 Superlatives Are Used to Compare More than Two Things
- 6 Why Should I Care about Superlatives?
- 7 (Issue 1) Do not form double superlatives.
- 8 (Issue 2) Use the superlative degree not the comparative degree when comparing three or more things.
- 9 (Issue 3) Be careful with adjectives that already express the highest degree.
- 10 Key Points
What are superlatives? (with examples)
A superlative is the form of an adjective or adverb that is used to compare three or more things.
The superlative form of an adjective is used to show that something has a quality to a greater or lesser degree. The superlative form of an adverb is used to show that something has done an action to a greater or lesser degree.
Examples of Superlatives
These are some examples of (shaded) superlatives:
- Neville is tallest.
(tallest = superlative form of the adjective tall)
- Mark listens most attentively of all the students.
(most attentively = superlative form of the adverb attentively)
- The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not“Eureka!“but“That’s funny.“(Isaac Asimov, 1920-1992)
(most exciting = superlative form of the adjective exciting)
- What we anticipate seldom occurs; what we least expected generally happens. (Benjamin Disraeli, 1804-1881)
(least expected = superlative form of the adverb little)
(NB: The word little can be an adverb or an adjective.)
Degrees of Comparison
Esta página trata sobre los superlativos (también llamados el“Superlative level“or the“third degree of comparison“), but each adjective or adverb can be written in one of three degrees:
- The Positive Degree. The positive degree offers no comparison. It simply tells us about the existence of a quality. (e.g., bright, brightly).
- The Comparative Degree.
- The Superlative Degree. The superlative (or superlative) degree compares more than two things to show which has the lower or higher degree of the quality. (e.g., brightest, most brightly).
In general, the superlative form of an adjective or adverb can be formed by:
- Adding the suffix -est if the word has one syllable, e.g., tallest.
- Preceding with most (or least) if the word has more than one syllable.
However, there are several spelling rules to consider (see below). There are also some irregulars, and some of these are adjectives and adverbs in common use. For example:
- The best defense against the atom bomb is not to be there when it goes off. (Anon from the US)
(best = superlative form of the adjective good)
- Pearl is the worst behaved dolphin in the project’s history.
(worst = superlative form of the adverb badly)
Superlatives Are Used to Compare More than Two Things
Los superlativos se usan para comparar más de dos cosas. Al comparar solo dos cosas, debe usar un comparativo. Por ejemplo:
- The Mercedes is the fastest car in the race.
(fastest = superlative of fast)
(The Mercedes is being compared against more than one other car.)
- The Mercedes is faster than the McLaren this year.
(faster = comparative of fast)
(The Mercedes is being compared against one other car.)
Why Should I Care about Superlatives?
A continuación se presentan los tres temas más problemáticos relacionados con los superlativos.
(Issue 1) Do not form double superlatives.
Do not apply two of the rules to form superlatives (for example, using“most“and adding“-is“). This would create a serious error called a double superlative. For example:
- Simon is most smartest. ❌
- Dave can swim most fastest. ❌
- She was most prettiest. ❌
Como también se puede formar un superlativo agregando la palabra“Minimum“, this error can also be made with“Minimum“. For example:
- Evan was the least smartest in the class. ❌
It should be noted that the formation of double superlatives is much more common in speech than in writing.
(Issue 2) Use the superlative degree not the comparative degree when comparing three or more things.
Use a superlative and not a comparative when comparing three or more things. For example:
- When faced with three scenarios, choose the funniest one.
- When faced with two scenarios, choose the funniest one.
(“Funnier“would be correct.)
Very often, the number of things being compared is unknown.
- Dawn was the best candidate.
(Reading this, we’d assume there were more than two candidates. If there were just two, it should say“better.“)
(Issue 3) Be careful with adjectives that already express the highest degree.
It could be said that adjectives like dead and unique already express the quality to the highest degree. Therefore, they must not have a comparative or superlative form. So if you plan to write“dead“o“more unique“, make sure you can justify it.
The following four adjectives attract the most criticism:
- Dead (Can something be deader or deadest?)
- Single (Can something be more or most single?)
- Unique (Can something be more or most unique?)
- Instantaneous (Can something be more or most instantaneous?)
- Don’t apply two rules to form a superlative (eg, the tastiest, the best). That’s a grammar howler.
- Only use the superlative degree (not the comparative) when comparing three or more things.
- Janet is the cleverest out of Janet and John.
(“Cleverer“would be correct.)
- Janet is the cleverest out of Janet and John.