A superlative adjective expresses the extreme or highest degree of a quality. We use a superlative adjective to describe the extreme quality of one thing in a group of things.
We can use superlative adjectives when talking about three or more things (not two things).
In the example below, “biggest” is the superlative form of the adjective “big”:
A B C
A is the biggest.
Formation of Superlative Adjectives
As with comparative adjectives, there are two ways to form a superlative adjective:
- short adjectives: add “-est”
- long adjectives: use “most”
We also usually add ‘the’ at the beginning.
|1-syllable adjectives||old, fast|
|2-syllable adjectives ending in -y||happy, easy|
|RULE: add “-est”||old → the oldest|
|Variation: if the adjective ends in -e, just add -st||late → the latest|
|Variation: if the adjective ends in consonant, vowel, consonant, double the last consonant||big → the biggest|
|Variation: if the adjective ends in -y, change the y to i||happy → the happiest|
|2-syllable adjectives not ending in -y||modern, pleasant|
|all adjectives of 3 or more syllables||expensive, intellectual|
|RULE: use “most”||modern → the most modern
expensive → the most expensive
quiet → the quietest/most quiet
clever → the cleverest/most clever
narrow → the narrowest/most narrow
simple → the simplest/most simple
Exception: The following adjectives have irregular forms:
- good → the best
- bad → the worst
- far → the farthest/furthest
Use of Superlative Adjectives
We use a superlative adjective to describe one thing in a group of three or more things. Look at these examples:
- John is 1m75. David is 1m80. Chris is 1m85. Chris is the tallest.
- Canada, China and Russia are big countries. But Russia is the biggest.
- Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world.
If we talk about the three planets Earth, Mars and Jupiter, we can use superlative adjectives as shown in the table below:
|Diameter (km)||12,760||6,790||142,800||Jupiter is the biggest.|
|Distance from Sun (million km)||150||228||778||Jupiter is the most distant from the Sun.|
|Length of day (hours)||24||25||10||Jupiter has the shortest day.|
|Moons||1||2||16||Jupiter has the most moons.|
|Surface temp. (degrees Celsius)||22||-23||-150||Jupiter is the coldest.|
England is coldest in winter. (not the coldest)
My boss is most generous when we get a big order. (not the most generous)