French language: the superlative
This month, we will be going to extremes by looking at the French superlative! In grammatical terms, the superlative is used to describe when something is “the most…” or “the least…”. An example would be:
“Megan was the funniest clown.”
Here the quality “funny” is in the superlative. You can indeed use the superlative for adjectives, verbs and adverbs to communicate an extreme sense (positive or negative) of the original word. In English, there’s some irregularity when it comes to forming the superlative for adjectives. We can say “prettiest” or “funniest” to mean “most pretty” or “most funny”, but we can’t say “important-est” or “intelligent-est”. But the inferior superlative is always “the least…”. In French it’s a tad more regular.
We would use “le/la/les plus…” for “the most” and “le/la/les moins…” for “the least”. And depending on whether the word it was being applied to is an adjective or verb, the placement would change. Let’s look at Megan again for some examples:
Megan est la fille la plus gentille.
“Megan is the nicest girl.”
Megan vient toujours le plus tôt.
“Megan always comes earliest.”
Megan nous fait rire le plus.
“Megan makes us laugh the most.”
In the case of adverbs and adjectives, the superlative always comes before the word. However with verbs, it comes after. You may notice that we’ve used “la plus…” in the first example; this is because we need to agree the gender & number of the superlative with that of the subject, Megan. Adverbs and verbs don’t have a gender though, so we always use “le plus/moins”.
There are definitely some irregulars though (and these are ones that are commonly used):
The best: le/la meilleur(e)
The best (for adverbs): le mieux
The worst: le/la plus mauvais(e)/le/la pire
The smallest (for concrete nouns): le/la plus petit(e)
The smallest (for abstract nouns): le/la moindre
This should give you an introduction into the world of superlatives, so why not practise them in your daily French?
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