Superlative adjectives show the highest possible degree of something compared to a group of the same or similar things. For example, the word tallest is the superlative form of the adjective tall. Your comparison has to include three or more items.
The Burj Dubai is the tallest building in the world.
How Superlative Adjectives Are Constructed
There are two ways to form a superlative adjective:
- short adjectives: add -est example: odd + est = oddest
- long adjectives: use most example: most + amazing = most amazing
|1-syllable adjectives||odd, slow|
|2-syllable adjectives ending in -y||silly, lowly|
|Normal rule: add “-est”||oddest – slowest|
|Variation: if the adjective ends in -e, just add -st||little – littlest|
|Variation: if the adjective ends in consonant + vowel, double the last consonant||mad – maddest|
|Variation: if the adjective ends in -y, change the y to i||silly – silliest|
|2-syllable adjectives not ending in -y||tender, gorgeous|
|all adjectives of 3 or more syllables||impressive, beautiful|
|For all of these add most in front||gorgeous → the most gorgeous
impressive → the most impressive
The needs to be added in front as well.
Some superlative adjectives allow the use of both -est and most. Look at these examples:
- simple – simplest/most simple
- happy – most happy/happiest
For example, we can say either, “Of all the girls in the room, she was the most happy.” We can also say, “She was the happiest girl in the room,” without changing the meaning of the sentence.
Superlative Adjectives Versus Superlative Adverbs
One thing that confuses English learners is the difference between a superlative adjective and a superlative adverb. When you compare something to itself it is a superlative adverb. It is easy to see the difference since a superlative adverb does not use the in front of it. Look at these examples:
- San Francisco is foggiest in June. (comparing to itself – superlative adverb)
- Seattle is the foggiest of all the cities in the US.
- Jenny is happiest when she is with her pugs. (comparing to itself – superlative adverb)
Some adjectives have irregular superlative forms:
- little (amount) – least
- much – most
- far – farthest/furthest
- bad – worst
- good – best
For example, we do not say, “She had the littlest amount of candy,” we would say “She had the least amount of candy.”
How Superlative Adjectives Are Used
When comparing one item in a group of three or more things, we use a superlative adjective:
- John is 200lbs. Adam is 225lbs. Bill is 300lbs. Bill is the heaviest.
- Jane, Emily and I all have large homes, but Emily’s is the largest.
- The library is the oldest building in our town.
This table shows an example comparing three girls:
|Height (in feet)||5”||5.5”||4.5”||Amy is the shortest.|
|Weight (in pounds)||100||130||98||Sara is the heaviest.|
|Shoe (foot) size||5||6||3.5||Amy has the smallest feet.|
|Siblings||4||0||2||Emily has the most siblings.|
|Shirt color||black||yellow||white||Emily is wearing the darkest shirt.|