In the last tip I talked about comparisons. In this tip we’ll look at superlatives. This is the form of adjective we use to indicate the greatest degree of the quality described by the adjective.
So if a building is taller than all the other buildings in the world, it is the tallest.
In this sentence the word tallest is the superlative form of the adjective tall, and taller is the comparative form.
With comparatives there can be degrees of comparison. Something might be a lot smaller, or a little bit smaller, or substantially smaller.
We cannot do this with superlatives because, by definition, they express the greatest degree of the quality.
And just like the comparative, we form the superlative in two ways depending on the original word.
The -est form
-est is added to one syllable adjectives and to two syllable adjectives ending in –y. If the adjective ends in –e, we just add -st.
Sometimes we have to double the final consonant of a word.
- When a one-syllable adjective ends in consonant + vowel + consonant, we double the final letter of the adjective.
- If the adjective ends in –y or –w, we don’t double the final letter
- When the adjective ends in vowel + vowel + consonant, or in vowel + consonant + consonant, we don’t double the final letter.
The most form
When an adjective has more than two syllables we don’t add –est. Instead we use the word most before the adjective.
Spelling is one of the most difficult aspects of English for non-native speakers.
The most complicated solution is not usually the best.
A bit more about comparisons
We have two other structures we can use to form comparisons in English. These are:
- As … as (also used in the negative not as … as)
Here’s an example:
Company A made $10 million profit. Company B made $8 million and Company C made $5 million. Company Z made $10 million.
- Company C is successful.
- Company B is more successful than Company C.
- But it is not as successful as Company A.
- Company Z is as successful as Company A.
We can also use twice as…as, or three times as..as.
- Company A made twice as much profit as Company C.
And if two things are the same:
- Company A made the same amount of profit as Company Z.