Whether you’ve heard of superlatives or not, you probably use them all the time without realizing it. Superlatives are adverbs or adjectives that compare three or more nouns to show which one has the highest or lowest degree of something.
In today’s post, we’ll break down what superlatives are, provide some examples, and show you how to use superlatives effectively in your writing. Read on to learn more!
What Are Superlative Adjectives?
Adjectives are words that describe qualities of nouns, such as their appearance or characteristics. So the superlative form of an adjective shows that a noun has the most extreme degree of a quality in comparison with at least two other nouns.
Here are a few examples:
Mark is the tallest of the brothers.
The park with the volleyball court is the closest.
My dog is the friendliest in the group.
As you can see, you don’t have to name the other nouns under comparison in the sentence. The context implies that you’re talking about at least three nouns.
What Are Superlative Adverbs?
Adverbs usually describe verbs or how actions are performed. So superlative adverbs show that an action is being or has been performed to the highest or lowest degree.
Mary sang the most beautifully in the chorus.
My brother runs the fastest on the team.
My oldest child calls me the most frequently.
While superlative adjectives compare three or more nouns, superlative adverbs don’t compare three or more verbs. Rather, the context in these sentences implies that three or more nouns are performing the same action.
In many cases, you form superlative adjectives and adverbs by adding the suffixest:
high → highest
tasty → tastiest
early → earliest
Sometimes, you place most or least before the word to form the superlative:
Jane’s dress is the most colorful.
The last recipe in the book was the most difficult to follow.
Our house was the least expensive in the neighborhood.
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And sometimes, the word changes entirely in its superlative form:
good → best
far → furthest
badly → worst
There are some patterns here that can help. If the word ends in y or ly, the superlative form usually ends in est. And if the word has three or more syllables, you usually need to place most or least before it to make the superlative. These rules don’t always apply, though, so always check a dictionary if you’re unsure.
Tips for Using Superlatives
1. Don’t Mix Up Superlative and Comparative Degrees
As we’ve mentioned, you should use superlatives only when comparing three or more things or people. If you’re comparing two, you should use the comparative form:
I’ll have yogurt instead of ice cream because it’s the healthiest.
I’ll have yogurt instead of ice cream because it’s healthier.
2. Watch Out for Double Superlatives
Placing most or least before an already superlative word can be tempting, but doing this just results in unnecessary wordiness and redundancy:
That was the most funniest movie I’ve ever seen.
That was the funniest movie I’ve ever seen.
3. Not Every Adjective and Adverb Can Take the Superlative Form
Watch out for words that already express the most extreme or complete form of something. For example, although the United States Constitution uses the phrase more perfect, nothing can be more or less perfect than another. It’s either perfect or it’s not.
To sum up, superlatives are adjectives and adverbs that describe the most extreme degree of something. We use the superlative form of a word when comparing three or more nouns.
Usually, you can create the superlative by using the est suffix or by placing most or least before a word. However, some irregular superlatives occur, so be sure to check a dictionary when you’re unsure. And you can always have one of our editors check your writing for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and more! Try out a free sample of our service today.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an example of a superlative?
Superlatives are adjectives and adverbs that show the highest or lowest degree of a quality. Some examples are fastest, smartest, and least expensive.
What is the difference between comparative and superlative words?
Superlative words compare three or more nouns (e.g., Lily is the youngest girl in class), and comparative words compare two nouns (e.g., Lily is younger than Maria).