Adjectives: using the Superlative with the Definite Article

We use the superlative adjective to say what is the most or the top in a group.

We form superlative adjective by adding -est to the adjective.

  • My dog is biggest (compared to the other dog or group of dogs).

NOTE: when a one-syllable adjective ends in a vowel and a consonant, then remember to double the consonant (see the example below). 

Noun (subject) + verb + superlative adjective.
My dog is bigger (big + +g + est).

Adding the definite article to the superlative adjective

We must add the definite article the to the superlative adjective if the adjective comes before a noun, because we are talking about one thing or group. In the example below, only one dog is the most in terms of size, out of all the other dogs:

Noun (subject) + verb + definite article + superlative adjective + noun.
My dog is the biggest (big + g + est) dog.

If we think of a group of dogs, where one is a Great Dane and the rest are Yorkies and Chihuahuas, only one dog is biggest. Since it is clear which one we mean, we use the definite article. Here are some other examples:

  • That is the tallest building I have ever seen.
  • They were the funniest people at the party.
  • That was the coolest game ever!

Note: We do not say ‘That is tallest building’, or ‘They were funniest people’, or ‘That was coolest game’, which is a common error, but an error nonetheless. Always remember that the definite article must precede the superlative adjective if the superlative comes directly before the noun.

Removing the definite article

There are times when it is not necessary to add the definite article. For example:

We do not need to add the definite article if the noun is possessive:

  • That’s his best
  • He’s my most diligent

Or if the adjective is used later in the sentence, rather than directly before the noun:

  • Those sentiments were (the) most…
  • You are (the) most
  • That tea is (the) best with no sweetening.
  • The puppy is (the) smallest of the litter.
  • I am (the) most productive in the morning.

Removing the definite article in these cases does not change the meaning of the sentence.