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THE SUPERLATIVE

When comparing two things one uses the comparative (previous lesson); however, for comparisons in larger groups, you must use the superlative. The superlative designates extremes: the best, the first, the worst, the last, etc.

A. It is the word "most" or the ending "--est" that designates the superlative. 

  • He is the most efficient worker we have.
  • That is the poorest family in the neighborhood.

B. The compared term (adjective or adverb) will be preceded by the definite article:

  • He works the fastest of any student I know.
  • She is the tallest woman in town.

C. Unlike the comparative, the superlative is not followed by "than": instead, one uses "of," followed by the context of the comparison (although this context is sometimes implicit):

  • It's the best day of my life!
  • She works the best of the whole class.
  • She's the one who arrived first.

Irregular forms

Monosyllabic adjectives (and several common two-syllable adjectives) take the ending "--est" in superlatives of superiority, and thus will not use the adverb "most." However, these same adjectives will use "less," like other adjectives, in superlatives of inferiority:
young --> the youngest,         tall --> the tallest,        old --> the oldest

>If the adjective ends in "--y" the "y" becomes "i":
heavy --> the heaviest,        early --> the earliest,        busy --> the busiest,        healthy --> the healthiest,        chilly --> the chilliest

>If the adjective ends in "--e" one adds only "--st" :
wise --> the wisest,        large --> the largest,        simple --> the simplest,        late --> the latest,

>If the adjective ends in "single vowel + consonant," the consonant is doubled and one adds "--est":
red --> the reddest,        big --> the biggest,        thin --> the thinnest,        hot --> the hottest

>Some very common superlatives have irregular forms:
good --> the best,
        bad --> the worst,        far --> the farthest,

>Some adjectives exist only in superlative form:
the first,        the last

TEST

Fill in the blanks with a comparative or a superlative :

  1. Canada is (big) ________than the USA but China is (populous) ________country in the world.† | b. We stayed at (cheap) ________ hotel in the town but my cousinís campsite was (cheap) ________ than our hotel. | c. January is generally (bad) ________ than December but February is (cold) ________ month. | d. English is (easy) ________ than German. | e. Chinese is (difficult) ________ language. | f. Heathrow is one of (busy) ________ airports in Europe. | g. My father thinks that the Beatles were (good) ________ than the Rolling Stones, but in my opinion, U2 is (great) ________ band.

ANSWERS:
Canada is (big) bigger than the USA but China is (populous) the most populous country in the world.† | b. We stayed at (cheap) the cheapest hotel in the town but my cousinís campsite was (cheap) cheaper than our hotel. | c. January is generally (bad) worse than December but February is (cold) the coldest month. | d. English is (easy) easier than German. | e. Chinese is (difficult) the most difficult language. | f. Heathrow is one of (busy) the busiest airports in Europe. | g. My father thinks that the Beatles were (good) better than the Rolling Stones, but in my opinion, U2 is (great) the greatest band.