Learning Spanish Grammar

Online Spanish Lesson on Superlatives:  General Rules

            Comparatives compare two items: 

 

Juan is taller than his brother.

 

Superlatives designate one item as surpassing all others:

 

Juan is the tallest in his family.

 

In English, superlatives may be formed either by adding –est to the end of an adjective or by using the words most or least before the adjective:

 

He claims to be the most intelligent as well.

So why is he the least successful?

 

Notice that the word the is used before all superlative forms in English. 

 

            Spanish superlatives are generally formed by using constructions very similar to the most...  or the least...  constructions in English.  Observe the translations of the sentences about Juan:

 

Juan es el más alto de su familia.

El afirma que es el más inteligente también.

Entonces ¿por qué es el menos próspero?

 

Notice that de is used in the first translation, NOT en.  Just as it sounds bizarre to say, “Juan is the tallest of his family” in English, in Spanish it does NOT sound correct to say “Juan es el más alto en su familia.”

 

            The form of the article the and of the adjective will be determined by the gender of the noun and whether it is singular or plural.  Observe:

 

María es la más alta de la clase.

Lucia y Marta son las niñas más altas de la escuela.

Carlos y Gerson son los más altos de todos, ¡incluyendo los maestros!

 

Notice that the noun may be placed within the superlative structure, as in, “Lucia and Marta are the girls most tall (the tallest girls) in the school.”

Irregular Superlatives

 

The following adjectives have irregular superlative forms.  Both English and Spanish forms are included:

 

Adjetivo

Superlativo

Adjective

Superlative

 

bueno

el mejor

good

best

 

malo

el peor

bad

worst

 

grande[1]

viejo

el mayor

big

old

biggest

(also oldest)

 

pequeño

joven

el menor

small

young

smallest

(also youngest)

 

Note that, whereas comparatives are followed by que, superlatives are followed by de:

 

Yo soy mayor que mi hermana.

Soy la mayor de la familia.

I am older than my sister.

I am the oldest in the family. (And female!)

 

 

Adjectives with –ísimo

 

            Sometimes an adjective ending in –ísimo has a superlative connotation.  More often, though, the –ísimo ending simply means very… or extremely…  Observe:

 

     un hombre guapísimo

a very handsome man

     una mujer riquísima

an extremely rich woman

     una familia pobrísima

an extremely poor family

     un edificio altísimo

a very tall building

     los trabajos dificilísimos

the most difficult jobs

     las muchachas popularísimas

the most popular girls

 

Whether the expression is superlative depends mainly on context, but using the article the may also indicate the superlative.  Note that, as with regular adjectives, the –ísimo ending changes to agree with the noun.


 

Practice

 

Complete these sentences with the missing words to form the superlative:

 

1)      Mi abuela es _______________ mujer _______________ pequeña _______________ la famila.

 

2)      Ella no es _______________ _______________ delgada.

 

3)      Sin duda, ella es _______________ _______________ bajita.

 

4)      Mi abuelo era _______________ _______________ alto _______________ la familia.

 

5)      Ahora, mi padre es _______________ _______________ alto.

 

6)      Papi es _______________ _______________ gordito, también.

 

 

Rewrite the following sentences according to the model:

 

Mi tía es muy guapa.                 Mi tía es guapísima.

 

7)      Mis tíos son muy divertidos.

 

8)      Tengo muchos primos.

 

9)      Es una familia muy grande.

 

 

Short answer:

 

10)  How would the meaning of the first sentence have changed if I had used menor instead of más pequeña?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For extra credit, translate 1-9 to English.


 

Answers

 

1)      Mi abuela es la mujer más pequeña de la famila.

 

2)      Ella no es la más delgada.

 

3)      Sin duda, ella es la más bajita.

 

4)      Mi abuelo era el más alto de la familia.

 

5)      Ahora, mi padre es el más alto.

 

6)      Papi es el más gordito, también.

 

7)      Mis tíos son divertidísimos.

 

8)      Tengo muchísimos primos.

 

9)      Es una familia grandísima.

 

10)  The sentence would have become “My grandmother is the youngest woman in the family” instead of “My grandmother is the smallest woman in the family.”

 

 

Translations

 

1)      My grandmother is the smallest woman in the family.

2)      She isn’t the slimmest.

3)      Without a doubt, she is the shortest.

4)      My grandfather was the tallest in the family.

5)      Now, my father is the tallest.

6)      Dad is the chubbiest, too.

7)      My uncles are so much fun.*

8)      I have tons of cousins.*

9)      It’s a huge family.*

 

*Note the exaggeration and the informality.  The –ísimo ending is often informal and is used to emphasize a point.  Translations will vary.


 

[1] The superlative form el más grande is also acceptable to denote “largest.”

 


 
 

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