We can use superlative adverbs to make comparisons. Adverbs, like adjectives, can have superlative forms to show extreme difference in the way things happen.
Superlative adverbs come after the verb they modify in a sentence, and they are almost always preceded by the word ‘the’.
- Which animal runs the most quickly?
- Caterpillars move the slowest.
- Dave visits doctors the least frequently.
1. Adverbs ending in ‘-ly‘
To make superlative forms of most adverbs, use:
[the most or least + adverb]
- Of all aircrafts autogyro flies the most safely.
- You should consider my proposal the most seriously.
- Bob is lazy, he cleans his flat the least frequently.
- This music sounds the least harmoniously.
2. Adverbs with the same form as an adjective
Some short adverbs, like ‘early’, ‘fast’, ‘slow’, ‘hard’, ‘high’, ‘long’, have superlative forms of adjectives with ‘-est’ at the end:
- Your walk the slowest I can imagine, let’s hurry up!
- This aircraft can fly the highest in its class.
- I can run this distance the fastest in my age group.
- Of all his colleagues Phil works the hardest, and his boss appreciates that.
3. Irregular comparatives
Some common adverbs have irregular comparatives that we just have to learn:
- good → well → Stephanie plays violin the best in her group.
- bad → badly → Ben knows multiplication table the worst.
Omitting the group of comparison
When we use superlatives, it is very common to omit the group that something or someone is being compared to because that group is implied by a previous sentence.
- My brothers are all fast swimmers. John swims the fastest, though.
A superlative attribute of an action can be compared to itself in other contexts or points in time. In this case, we do not have another group, and we generally do not use the word ‘the’.
- I work best by myself. (compared to when other people are involved)
- Flowers bloom most beautifully in the spring. (compared to the other seasons)
Watch this video from Daniel Byrnes about comparative and superlative degrees of adverbs: