Superlative Adjectives

A superlative adjective expresses the extreme or highest degree of a quality. We use a superlative adjective to describe the extreme quality of one thing in a group of things.
In the example below, “biggest” is the superlative form of the adjective “big”:
A is the biggest.

Formation of Superlative Adjectives
As with comparative adjectives, there are two ways to form a superlative adjective:

  • short adjectives: add “-est”
  • long adjectives: use “most”

We also usually add ‘the’ at the beginning.

Short adjectives
1-syllable adjectives old, fast
2-syllable adjectives ending in -y happy, easy
Normal rule: add “-est” old → the oldest
Variation: if the adjective ends in -e, just add -st late → the latest
Variation: if the adjective ends in consonant, vowel, consonant, double the last consonant big → the biggest
Variation: if the adjective ends in -y, change the y to i happy → the happiest
Long adjectives
2-syllable adjectives not ending in -y modern, pleasant
all adjectives of 3 or more syllables expensive, intellectual
Normal rule: use “most” modern → the most modern
expensive → the most expensive

With some 2-syllable adjectives, we can use ‘-est’ or ‘most’:

  • quiet → the quietest/most quiet
  • clever → the cleverest/most clever
  • narrow → the narrowest/most narrow
  • simple → the simplest/most simple

The following adjectives have irregular forms:

  • good → the best
  • bad → the worst
  • far → the furthest

Use of Superlative Adjectives
We use a superlative adjective to describe one thing in a group of three or more things. Look at these examples:

  • Ahmad is 1m75. Nedal is 1m80. Fadi is 1m85. Fadi is the tallest.
  • Canada, China and Russia are big countries. But Russia is the biggest.
  • Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world.

If we talk about the three planets Earth, Mars and Jupiter, we can use superlative adjectives as shown in the table below:

Earth Mars Jupiter
Diameter (km) 12,760 6,790 142,800 Jupiter is the biggest.
Distance from Sun (million km) 150 228 778 Jupiter is the most distant from the Sun.
Length of day (hours) 24 25 10 Jupiter has the shortest day.
Moons 1 2 16 Jupiter has the most moons.
Surface temp.
(degrees Celsius)
22 -23 -150 Jupiter is the coldest.

When we compare one thing with itself, we do not use “the”:

  • Jordan is coldest in winter. (not the coldest)
  • My boss is most generous when we get a big order. (not the most generous)