Adjectives can have superlative forms. They are used in sentences where a subject is compared to a group of objects. Superlative adjectives are used to describe an object which is at the upper or lower limit of a quality (the tallest, the smallest, the fastest, the highest).
In this example, ‘the smallest‘ is the superlative form of the adjective ‘small‘.
We usually use ‘the’ before superlative adjective forms:
- Michael is the tallest player on our team.
- Of all her friends, Emily is the nicest.
- This is the best restaurant in town. Their pizzas are the biggest and the most delicious.
How to form superlative adjectives
As with comparative adjectives, there are two ways to form a superlative adjective:
- short adjectives: add “-est”
- long adjectives: use “most”
To make superlative forms of most one- and two-syllable adjectives, add ‘-est’ to them:
- Fast → The cheetah is the fastest animal in the world.
- Old → John is the oldest son in his family.
- Low → This is the lowest point of the valley.
1. If the adjective ends in ‘e’, just add ‘-st’:
- Large → My house is the largest one in our neighborhood.
- Fast → Your dog ran the fastest of any dog in the race.
2. If an adjective ends in one vowel and one consonant, double the consonant before ‘-est’:
- Big → Whales are the biggest mammals.
- Hot → This has been the hottest day of the summer.
3. For two-syllable adjectives ending in ‘-y’, remove the ‘-y’ and add ‘-iest’:
- Happy → It’s my birthday, and I’m the happiest person in the world.
- Early → When does the earliest train from London arrive?
To make superlative forms of long adjectives (three syllables and more), use ‘the most’ + adjective:
- This is the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen.
- Sport cars are the most expensive vehicles.
Some common short adjectives have irregular forms:
- Good → better → This is the best movie I’ve ever seen.
- Bad → worse → The worst things always happen unexpectedly.
- Far → further → Tom dreams about visiting the furthest corners of the Earth.
How to use superlative adjectives
We use a superlative adjective to describe one thing in a group of three or more things.
- Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world.
1. The opposite of ‘most’ is ‘least’. Use ‘least’ before long adjectives:
- This region is the least comfortable for leaving.
- The first two chapters were the least interesting in the whole book.
2. To show that the superlative adjective belongs to a group of similar things, use ‘one of’:
- Shanghai is one of the biggest cities in the world.
- The Miniature Pinscher is one of the smallest dogs.
3. We can use superlative adjectives without a noun:
- These flowers are not very expensive, but they are the most beautiful.
- You wouldn’t find any other prices, these are the lowest.
4. When we compare one thing with itself, we do not use ‘the’:
- England is coldest in winter. (not the coldest)