1. What are superlatives?

Superlatives are used to talk about ‘the most (adjective)‘ in a group.
This means the biggest, shortest, smallest, etc..

2. How to make superlatives?

Superlatives start with adjectives.

There are two main ways to make superlatives:

  • x (be) the (adjective + est)
  • x (be) the (most + adjective)

Which structure to choose depends on how long the adjective is.

3. One syllable adjectives

For adjectives that are one syllable, use ‘the …est’.

Sometimes small changes must be made to suit the adjective ending.

Adjective endingExample adjectiveSuperlative endingExample superlativeExample sentence
shortthe …estthe shortestMy sister is the shortest person in my family.
elargethe …estthe largestNico got the largest piece of cake.
single vowel + single consonantfatsingle vowel + double consonantthe fattestI am the fattest person in my office.

4. Examples for one syllable adjectives

Adjectivethe adj. …estExample sentence
tallthe tallestGary is the tallest student in the class.
fastthe fastestLily is the fastest swimmer I have ever seen.
sweetthe sweetestYou make the sweetest dessert.
largethe largestThe blue whale is the largest animal in the world.
nicethe nicestYour wife is the nicest person I know.
fatthe fattestTim is the fattest person in the office.
hotthe hottestWe went to the beach on the hottest day of the year.

Good and bad

The superlative for ‘good’ is ‘the best’.
The superlative for ‘bad’ is ‘the worst’.

AdjectiveSuperlativeExample sentence
goodthe bestMaggie is the best worker in the company.
badthe worstGraeme is the worst football player I have ever seen.

5. Two syllable adjectives

For adjectives that are two syllables, both ‘the …est’ and ‘the most …’ are used.

Which one is used is based on rules:

Adjective endingExample adjectiveSuperlativeExample superlativeExample sentence
simplethe …estthe simplestI got the simplest question on the exam wrong.
ydirtythe …iestthe dirtiestJulia’s hands are always the dirtiest in the class.
…ingboringthe most …the most boringHillary finds physics the most boring subject at school.
…enwoodenthe most …the most woodenHis acting is the most wooden I have ever seen.
…edtiredthe most …the most tiredThis is the most tired we have seen the boss.
…ousfamousthe most …the most famousLily is the most famous person in my family: she was once on a soap opera.
…iouspiousthe most …the most piousYou are the most pious, yet most hypocritical person, I know.
…fulcheerfulthe most …the most cheerfulMy dog is the most cheerful animal in the world.

6. Examples for two syllable adjectives

AdjectiveSuperlativeExample sentence
stupidthe stupidestHe is the stupidest boyfriend she has ever had.
shallowthe shallowestThe ocean is shallowest near the shore.
spicythe spiciestDave’s chilli is the spiciest in the world.
prettythe prettiestNicola is the prettiest girl in the class.
lovelythe loveliestThis is the loveliest part of the country.
woodenthe most woodenPippa is the most wooden actor in Hollywood.
tiredthe most tiredI feel the most tired on Wednesday.
wickedthe most wickedThe man in that house is the most wicked on the street.
pompousthe most pompousYou are the most pompous person I know.
playfulthe most playfulDogs are the most playful pet.

7. Three or more syllable adjectives

Superlatives for adjectives with three or more syllables use ‘the most …’.

8. Examples for three syllable adjectives

interestingthe most interestingThis is the most interesting book that the author has ever written.
deliciousthe most deliciousYour father cooks the most delicious pasta.
dangerousthe most dangerousHope Street is the most dangerous street in the city.
colourfulthe most colourfulWow. That is the most colourful jacket I have ever seen.

9. Dropping ‘the’

If using a possessive pronoun, ‘the’ can be dropped:

Possessive pronounSuperlativeExample sentence
MyworstMy worst nightmare is being alone.
HisgreatestHis greatest achievement was winning the high school tennis tournament when he was 13.
The company’smost productiveThe company’s most productive employee is Wallace.

In many cases, the possessive pronoun can also be dropped.

my test scoresmy bestMy chemistry score was best.
the times Juan moveshis quickestJuan is quickest in the morning.
all the places Harris visits in his daily routinehis most comfortableHarris is most comfortable watching TV on the sofa.

10. Ordinals and superlatives

Ordinals are numbers such as 1st (first), 2nd (second), 3rd (third), 4th (fourth).

They can be used in superlative sentences.

Penny is the second tallest student in her class. That house is the second most expensive house on the street.
The Ford was the third fastest car in the race.My family are the fourth richest in the UK.

11. Negative superlatives

Superlatives can be negatives.

To make a negative superlative, use ‘the least …”.

He is the least handsome of the three.That was the least enjoyable holiday I have ever had.
She is the least quiet student in the class.People often say pigs are the least intelligent animal, but really they are one of the most intelligent.

12. Exercises

1. Answer these questions:

(i) Who is the tallest person in your family?
(ii) Who is/was the best teacher at your school?
(iii) What was the best holiday you have ever had? And what was the worst?

2. Use ordinals and superlatives to describe people you know (for example, who is the shortest person you know, and who is the second shortest)

3. Use a negative superlative to describe something bad (for example: ‘he is the least thin person in the class’)