This is the fifth of six High English grammar quizzes on comparatives and it focusses specifically on superlatives.
In the first quiz on comparatives we looked at gradable expressions in which something was better or worse than another thing. But, in English grammar, how do we describe the best and the worst, the tallest and the shortest or the fastest and the slowest? That's where superlatives come in.
The basic form of an adjective becomes a comparative form by adding '-R' to the word and a superlative form by adding '-ST' to the word. Here's a couple of examples:
The superlative form helps us to identify something which is the best or the worst among a group of things that we are looking at. For instance, the debate is still on to determine the GREATEST tennis player of all time. Superlatives can be used in everyday situations. For instance, we can single out something having a unique quality or describe a specific person, thing or attitude in a particular group. Here are a couple of examples:
‘China is the LARGEST country in terms of population.’
‘China is NOT THE LARGEST country in terms of area.’
In the second of the two sentences we see a negative form.
Most words can be converted into superlatives by adding ST (if they end with 'E') or EST (if they do not end with 'E'), for example: safe-safeST, bright-brightEST). Some other words can be used in their basic form with MOST preceding the word to be used in the superlative form, as in this example:
‘Between milk, coffee and tea I prefer milk because it is the MOST NUTRITIOUS.’
In this sentence we use the superlative MOST because ‘nutritiousER’ is not a word. Just as in comparatives, the superlatives can be formed from words ending in ‘y’ by removing ‘y’ and adding ‘iest’ (wealthy-wealthIEST). Some words have superlatives which do not follow the rules as above but have irregular superlatives such as good-BEST.
Superlatives are extremely useful in written and spoken English so take the quiz on grammar that follows and see how superlatives grace the language.