Using superlatives correctly will make your English conversations more natural. When we describe a thing or a group of things we will often compare them to similar items. I have put together this guide to help you master this English grammar.
Superlatives are the highest degree of comparison. Superlatives are used when we talk about one object out of a group of 3 or more which is at the top level or the bottom level of a quality. (the greatest, the most exciting, the busiest, the least popular, the worst eg.)
The chart below breaks down the grammar rules for using superlative adjectives:
|One-Syllable Adjectives Add ~est to the end of the adjective|
|cheap – cheapest|
“There are 3 watches that I like. I will buy the cheapest one.”
|hot – hottest |
“August is the hottest month in Tokyo.”
|Two-Syllable Adjectives Ending in Y Add ~iest to the end of the adjective|
|happy – happiest|
“Henry is the happiest person I have ever met. He is always smiling.”
|friendly – friendliest|
“Starbucks has the friendliest staff in all the coffee shops I have visited.”
|Other Two-Syllable Adjectives and Adjectives with 3 or more syllables Use most + the adjective|
|beautiful – most beautiful|
“This house has the most beautiful garden on my street.”
|expensive – most expensive|
“Tokyo is the most expensive area in Japan.”
How to use English grammar Superlatives (Most, best, biggest)
We learned the comparative form (comparison) of adjectives in my post HERE.
Today let’s look at the next step, adjective superlatives. Most, best, biggest…
Bonus – Printable Quiz PDF worksheet
We use superlatives in sentences where a subject is compared to a group of objects. Source: https://www.ef.com/english-resources/english-grammar/comparative-and-superlative/
Superlatives adjectives end in ~est…
- “This blog is the greatest English learning blog in the world!”
…or follow the words most or least.
- “The Empire Strikes Back is the most exciting movie of the Star Wars series.”
- “Jar Jar Binks is the least popular Star Wars character.”
Learn English superlatives
~ The way we make superlative adjectives is similar to the way we make comparative adjectives.
① For a one-syllable adjective add ~est to the end of the word.
long – longest
- “The Amazon is the longest river in the world.”
big – biggest (sometimes we need to double the last consonant)
- “The Great Dane is the biggest breed of dog.”
② If the one syllable adjective ends with an “e” you just need to add the letters ~st.
fine – finest
- “If you ask me, Club Gascon is the finest restaurant in London.”
cute – cutest
- “Let’s get that puppy! He’s the cutest!”
③ If a two-syllable word ends with a “y” then we will change the “y” to an “i” and add ~est.
busy – busiest
- “The busiest airport in the world is the Atlanta International Airport in Georgia.”
④ If an adjective has two syllables but doesn’t end in “y” or it has three or more syllables, we put the words most or least in front.
- “She is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen!”
(Compared with all the women I have seen in my life.)
- “That was the most interesting class I have ever taken!”
(Compared with all the classes I have ever taken.)
- “Winter is my least favorite season.”
(Compared with the other 3 seasons.)
It’s common in English to say that something is the worst if we really don’t like it.
- “I got gum on my new shoes this morning. That’s the worst!”
Are you sometimes confused by the words MOST and ALMOST? Read my Most or Almost? Your best guide (Quiz) and never confuse them again.
English Grammar superlatives – Irregular adjectives
Irregular adjectives and their superlatives
The adjectives good, bad, and far are irregular. Their comparative and superlative forms look like this:
good – better – best
bad – worse – worst
far – further/farther – farthest/furthest
- “Alex is the best golfer I know. At the summer tournament, he hit the ball the farthest. His drive went 250 yards!” (Almost 230 meters.)
Superlatives with THE
Superlatives are used with the article the.
We use the articles A, and AN when we talk about one thing, in general. One of many things. We use the article THE when we talk about a specific thing. Specific means one and only one, not one of many.
Example- “Jim came to the meeting and sat in a chair.” = There are several chairs in the room, Jim sat in one of them (one of many) so we use a chair.
“Jim came to the meeting and sat in the chair beside the coffee machine.” = This time Jim sat in a specific chair, the chair beside the coffee machine. There is only one chair beside the coffee machine so we say the chair. (Also only 1 coffee machine!)
Watch a video on English articles below.
A superlative always refers to one specific thing. There is only one biggest, best, or most (adjective) thing. It’s specific so we need to use the article the with the superlative adjective connected to the noun.
- “The Amazon is the longest river in the world.”
- “Alex is the best golfer I know. At the summer tournament, he hit the ball the farthest.”
- “Mt. Everest is the highest mountain in the world.”
*Superlatives are used with one specific noun, but we can also count superlatives as part of a larger group. We will still use the in these examples. Please look at the following:
- “America and China are 2 of the biggest countries in the world.”
In the group of the biggest countries in the world, America and China are near the top.
Top 5 biggest countries by area.
(The amount of land, not population.)
3 United States of America
- “Rolls Royce and Ferrari are 2 of the most expensive cars in the world.”
There are many expensive cars that you can buy, Rolls Royce and Ferrari are near the top of that group. (The group of the most expensive cars.)
Superlative grammar in use
- “Mt. Everest is the highest mountain in the world but K2 is the most difficult to climb.”
This sentence is saying that K2 is the most difficult mountain to climb in the world even though the words are not mentioned. We can understand these things from the first part of the sentence.
- “Mt. Fuji is the tallest mountain I have ever climbed.”
This is the tallest mountain out of the group of mountains that I have climbed.
- “That store’s ice cream is the best!”
I think that this ice cream is the best ice cream I have ever eaten. In normal conversation, it’s understood that this means the best ice cream out of the group of ice creams that I’ve ever eaten even though those words are not mentioned.
Subjective and Objective Superlatives
Adjectives like high and tall can be objective if we take an exact measurement.
The height of Mount Fuji is a fact, not an opinion, this makes it objective.
Adjectives like difficult and good are subjective because they vary from person to person.
What is difficult for one person may be easy for another. What is good for one person may be terrible for another. That makes these adjectives subjective.
Do a deep dive into Fact and Opinion Adjectives. (This is the most viewed post on this post.)
There are many hot places in the world. I often talk about how hot Tokyo is in the summer, but many of my blog readers live in places that are even hotter.
Do you understand English superlative grammar now? What is the average temperature during your county’s summer? What is the hottest month in your country?
*August is the hottest month for some of us, but not for my friends in the Southern hemisphere.
Maybe August is the coldest month for you… So if you live in Chile or Brazil or anywhere in the Southern half of the world, when is your hottest month? How hot does it get? Tell me in the comments.
Practice using your English and tell me about where you live. The comment section is at the bottom of the page.
Superlative Printable Quiz PDF worksheet
Download your FREE Quiz as a printable PDF worksheet. Great for teachers to use with private or group classes.