Superlatives are used when we want to talk about ‘the most (adj.)’ out of a group , or ‘the most (adj.)’ in the world.

The way to make a superlative changes depending on how long the adjective is.

For adjectives that are one syllable, add ‘-est’

– if the adjective ends in an ‘e’, just add ‘st’ (example: nice – nicest)
– if the adjective ends in a single vowel-single consonant, double the consonant and add ‘est’ (example: big – biggest)
– if the adjective ends in ‘y’, change the ‘y’ to ‘i’ and add ‘est’ (example: pretty – prettiest)

tall – the tallest
short – the shortest
sweet – the sweetest
large – the largest (1)
nice – the nicest (2)
big – the biggest (2)
fat – the fattest (2)
pretty – the prettiest (3)
lively – the liveliest (3)

Important note:

good – the best (not ‘the goodest’)
bad – the worst (not ‘the baddest’)

– examples

The blue whale is the biggest animal in the world.
He is the quietest student in the class.
They are the best football players in the world.

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

– adjectives that end in an unstressed syllable use ‘the -est’
– adjectives ending in ‘-ing’, ‘-ed’, ‘-ous’, ‘-ious’, or ‘-ful’ generally use ‘the most …’

simple – the simplest
stupid – the stupidest
spicy – the spiciest

boring – the most boring
wicked – the most wicked
famous – the most famous
pious – the most pious
cheerful – the most cheerful

– examples

She is the stupidest girlfriend he has ever had.
This is the spiciest dish on the menu.
He is the most wicked boy she has ever met.
This is the most boring movie I have ever seen.

Adjectives with three or more syllables use ‘the most …’

interesting – the most interesting
delicious – the most delicious
fascinating – the most fascinating
outrageous – the most outrageous
idiotic – the most idiotic

– examples

You are the most idiotic person I have ever met.
You cook the most delicious food.

Ordinals and Superlatives

After saying what is ‘the most’, it is possible to say ‘the second most’, ‘the third most’, etc.

John is the fastest, and Ted is the second fastest.
You are probably the second richest man I know.
She got the third best score in the class.

Negative Superlatives

Sometimes using a negative superlative is used to sound more polite than using a superlative. Negative superlatives can be made using ‘the least’:

He is the least handsome of the three (= he is the ugliest)
She is the least quiet student in the class (= she is the loudest)

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’)