What Are Superlatives? (with Examples)

What Are Superlatives? (with Examples)

A superlative is a form of an adjective or an adverb used for comparison.

The superlative form of an adjective is used to show something has a quality to the greatest or least degree. The superlative form of an adverb is used to show something has performed an action to the greatest or least degree.

Examples of Superlatives

Here are some examples of superlatives (shaded):
  • Neville is tallest.
  • (tallest = superlative form of the adjective tall)
  • Mark listens most attentively of all the students.
  • (most attentively = superlative form of the adverb attentively)
  • The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not "Eureka!" but "That's funny." (Isaac Asimov, 1920-1992)
  • (most exciting = superlative form of the adjective exciting)
  • What we anticipate seldom occurs; what we least expected generally happens. (Benjamin Disraeli, 1804-1881)
  • (least expected = superlative form of the adverb little)
    (NB: The word little can be an adverb or an adjective.)
In general, the superlative form of an adjective or adverb can be formed by:
  • Adding the suffix -est if the word has one syllable, e.g., tallest.
  • Preceding with most (or least) if the word has more than one syllable.
There are several spelling rules to consider though. (See the table below.) There are also a few irregular ones, and some of these are commonly used adjectives and adverbs. For example:
  • The best defense against the atom bomb is not to be there when it goes off. (Anon from the US)
  • (best = superlative form of the adjective good)
  • Pearl is the worst behaved dolphin in the project's history.
  • (worst = superlative form of the adverb badly)

Superlatives Are Used to Compare More than Two Things

Superlatives are used to compare more than two things. When comparing just two things, you must use a comparative. For example:
  • The Mercedes is the fastest car in the race.
  • (fastest = superlative of fast)
    (The Mercedes is being compared against more than one other car.)
  • The Mercedes is faster than the McLaren this year.
  • (faster = comparative of fast)
    (The Mercedes is being compared against one other car.)

See Also

What are comparatives? What is the positive degree of an adjective or an adverb? Comparatives and superlatives of adjectives Comparatives and superlatives of adverbs Glossary of grammatical terms