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Grammar 39 - Comparatives - Superlatives
"Table-tennis is the fastest game." - 'Fastest' is a superlative.

Grammar 39 - Comparatives - Superlatives

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:

Simple-simpler-simplest
Tame-tamer-tamest

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.

1.
Choose the sentence that uses the superlative form from the following options.
Among the elements gold, silver and lead, gold has the highest density.
Among the elements gold, silver and lead, gold has a higher density than silver and lead.
Among the elements gold, silver and lead, lead has a higher density than silver.
Among the elements gold, silver and lead, silver and lead have a lower density than gold.
Although all the sentences are both truthful and comparatives, option 1 is the one with the superlative form of 'highest' formed by adding 'est' to 'high.' The other options are comparatives as denoted by the words 'higher' and 'lower'
2.
Choose the sentence that uses the superlative form from the following options.
Among the three brothers, while Amjad is the gentlest, Mustaq is the quieter and Ashfaq the cleverer.
Among the three brothers, Amjad is the gentler, Mustaq the quietest and Ashfaq the cleverest.
Among the three brothers, Amjad is the gentlest, Mustaq the quietest and Ashfaq the cleverest.
Among the three brothers, Amjad is the gentlest, Mustaq the quieter and Ashfaq the cleverest.
The correct superlative forms of 'clever', 'gentle' and 'quiet' are used in the sentence. In each of the other options one of the adjectives is not in the superlative form
3.
Choose the sentence that uses the superlative form from the following options.
Venus is farther from the sun than Mercury is.
Mercury is closer to the sun than Venus is.
Mercury is closer to the sun than any other planets.
Mercury is the closest planet to the sun.
Although all the sentences are both truthful and comparatives, option 4 is the one with the superlative form of 'closest' formed by adding 'st' to 'close.' The other options are comparatives as denoted by the words 'closer' and 'farther'
4.
"March is the _______ month for our executives as it is the year end."
Choose the word or words from the following to fill up the blank and complete a sentence that expresses in the superlative form.
busiest
most busy
busyest
busyiest
'Busiest' is the superlative form of 'busy' formed by removing 'y' from 'busy' and adding 'iest.' The other options use incorrect superlative forms
5.
"Madhuri Dixit is the ____________ dancer in Bollywood."
Choose the word or words from the following to fill up the blank and complete a sentence that expresses in the superlative form.
gracefullest
most graceful
more graceful
gracefuller
'Graceful' is one of the many words that don't use the 'st' or the 'est' form but the 'most' form instead. Option 3 is in the comparative form. Options 1 and 4 use words that don't exist
6.
Choose the sentence that uses the superlative form from the following options.
I like table-tennis best because it is easier to play than badminton and tennis. It is also the fastest game.
I like table-tennis better because it is easier to play than badminton and tennis. It is also the faster game.
I like table-tennis good because it is easier to play than badminton and tennis. It is also the fast game.
I like table-tennis worse because it is easier to play than badminton and tennis. It is also the slow game.
Here, we have used two superlatives in 'best' and 'fastest.' The other options use the incorrect form for superlatives
7.
"Among Jammu, Mumbai and Jaipur, Jammu is the ________ from Trivandrum."
Choose the word or words from the following to fill up the blank and complete a sentence that expresses in the superlative form.
most farthest
far
most far
farthest
'Farthest' is the superlative form of 'far,' which is an irregular form. The other options use an incorrect superlative form
8.
Choose the sentence that does NOT use the superlative form from the following options.
Most of my visits to the theatre are on Sundays.
My visits to theatre are most often on Sundays.
I visit the theatre mostly on Sundays.
Among my friends I am the one with the most visits to the theatre .
'Mostly' is an adverb that means almost always and hence does not qualify as a superlative. The other options are sentences where 'most' is used as a superlative
9.
Choose the sentence that uses the superlative form from the following options.
Among my friends, Arpana is the gentlest.
Among my friends, Arpana is the most gentle.
Among my friends, Arpana is the gentler.
Both options 1 and 2 above are correct but option 3 is wrong.
Both are correct as 'gentle' is one of the words that can be used in its 'gentlest' form or 'most gentle' form. Some other such words are 'clever', 'friendly', 'simple' and 'quiet'. Option 3 uses the comparative form 'gentler'
10.
Choose the sentence that uses the superlative form from the following options.
There is a debate whether Varanasi is a holier city than Hardwar.
There is a debate whether Varanasi is the holiest city in India.
There is a debate whether the city of Varanasi is as holy as Hardwar.
There is a debate whether the city of Varanasi is not holier than Hardwar.
This sentence is the one with the superlative form of 'holiest' formed by removing 'y' from 'holy' and adding 'iest.' The other options are comparatives as denoted by the words 'holier' or 'as...as'
Author:  V T Narendra

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