Who is your best friend? What is the most delicious food in the world? If you didn’t know it already, whenever you talk about something you consider to be at the top level or bottom level of quality, you will use superlative adjectives to describe those opinions.
Let’s take a look at the difference between comparative and superlative adjectives and explore the rules for creating superlative adjectives in English.
The difference between the superlative and comparative
Comparatives and superlatives are used to make comparisons of any sort. The difference between them is that the comparative (better, faster, etc) will compare two people or objects. With a comparative adjective, you also use the word ‘than’. You can study all the rules we follow in order to form a comparative in this blog post.
Take a look at the examples below:
- This brownie is more delicious than the one we had yesterday.
- The brownie is better than the ice cream.
Superlative adjectives also make comparisons. However, you use these to show how something or someone is different (for better or for worse) from all other options. Also, you don’t use the word ‘than’ to form a superlative comparison. Read the examples to see a superlative in a sentence.
- This brownie is the most delicious brownie I have ever tasted.
- The brownie is the best dessert on the menu.
Rules to form superlatives
There are four rules you need to study in order to create the superlative of the adjectives in English. If you want to review the rules we apply to the comparative form, take a look at this post here on the PrepEng blog.
Do you understand the structure of a superlative sentence? Check your knowledge below.
Messi is the most talented soccer player in the world.
- ‘Messi’ is the subject of the sentence.
- ‘is’ is the verb.
- ‘the most talented’ is the superlative adjective of ‘talented.’
- ‘soccer player in the world’ is the complement of the sentence.
Could you write a sentence using this information in the superlative?
- Sally / is / tall / girl in her class
Check your answer in the last paragraph to see if you got it right!
Rule #1 – one-syllable adjectives, add -est to the end
With one-syllable adjectives, you add -est to the word in order to form the superlative.
A syllable is a voiced part of a word. For example, the word water has two syllables: wa-ter. The word drink has only one syllable. The word elephant has three syllables.
If you are unsure about how many syllables one adjective has, you can use the clap trick. It is very simple: clap every time you open your mouth while saying a word. You can also check a dictionary that will put small separators between each syllable.
Here is a superlative adjective list. Each has only one syllable and ends in -est.
|Superlative Form||the cheapest|
|Example||My blue jacket is the cheapest item in my closet.|
|Superlative Form||the coldest|
|Example||Alaska is the coldest state in the United States.|
|Superlative Form||the oldest|
|Example||Kate is the oldest of her siblings.|
|Superlative Form||the fastest|
|Example||Ferrari makes the fastest car in the world.|
For adjectives ending in ‘c-v-c’ (consonant-vowel-consonant), double the last letter and then add -est.
- big – the biggest
- Incorrect spelling: the bigest
- Example: The elephant is the biggest animal I have ever seen.
- thin – the thinnest
- Incorrect spelling: the thinest
- Example: That was the thinnest dog ever. Poor thing, it must be starving.
- sad – the saddest
- Incorrect spelling: the sadest
- Example: Wow! This was definitely the saddest movie I have ever watched.
Rule #2 – If the adjective ends in –y, add -iest
|Superlative Form||the angriest|
|Example||My math teacher is the angriest teacher in the school.|
|Superlative Form||the busiest|
|Example||This will be the busiest week in the year for the financial department.|
|Superlative Form||the happiest|
|Example||My wedding day was the happiest day of my life.|
|Superlative Form||the tidiest|
|Example||Laura’s house is the tidiest home I have ever visited.|
|Superlative Form||the funniest|
|Example||In my opinion, Adam Sandler is the funniest actor in Hollywood.|
Rule #3 – Use ‘the most’ for long adjectives with two or more syllables
If you need to form the superlative with an adjective that has three or more syllables, you need to follow this rule. It’s simple: you just add ‘the most’ before the adjective.
|Superlative Form||the most careful|
|Example||My grandpa is the most careful person I have ever met.|
|Superlative Form||the most difficult|
|Example||This is the most difficult test I have ever taken.|
|Superlative Form||the most interesting|
|Example||The second book is the most interesting of the trilogy.|
|Superlative Form||the most beautiful|
|Example||You have the most beautiful eyes in the family!|
|Superlative Form||the most expensive|
|Example||I love this dress. It is the most expensive piece of clothing I have ever bought.|
Rule #4 – Irregular forms
Just like the comparative, we have some exceptions to the rules when forming the superlative. Below we have the adjectives we need to pay attention to:
- GOOD – The superlative form is ‘the best’
Example: You must go there! They have the best burger in the world.
- BAD – The superlative form is ‘the worst’
Example: This was the worst movie I have ever seen.
- FAR – The comparative form is ‘the farthest’.
Example: Pluto is the farthest planet in the solar system.
Exercise: Comparative or Superlative?
Now is your chance to practice using the comparative and the superlative forms of adjectives.
Remember, always use ‘than’ with the comparative and always use ‘the’ with the superlative form.
Hopefully, these four rules for using superlative adjectives help you understand their form and purpose. What other examples of superlative adjectives can you think of? What did we miss? Comment below with your ideas.
By the way, the answer is: Sally is the tallest girl in her class. Good job if you got it right!