Comparatives and superlatives live next door to each other in our minds; that must be why we mess them up so often. It is one easy step from darker to darkest and from more boring to most boring. We run into trouble when we use the wrong attachment, as with a vacuum cleaner.
- Thank you for giving me the finerest send-off that I could hope for.
- You guys are the bestest buddies ever!
- We’ll be friends when worst comes to worst.
You can form most superlatives by adding –st or –est to the original adjective, as in finest, or by adding –iest to an adjective that ends in y, as in happiest. Just don’t do either of those to an irregular word such as good or bad. Bestest is a redundancy because best is already the best! And it’s when worse (comparative) comes to worst (superlative) that conditions are difficult.
MORE TO KNOW
Follow the same rules for superlatives as for comparatives when it comes to the number of syllables, as in roundest, liveliest, and most interesting (using most rather than more). Note that you need to double the consonant to create wettest and reddest when the original has a consonant-vowel-consonant spelling, and remove the y to make driest and busiest. Learn these rules and you’ll be the cleverest writer among all your friends.