Good … Better … Best

Now that you know the comparative form of adjectives, it's time to learn the superlative degree. The superlative is used to show the person or thing that has the greatest or least degree of a certain quality. In English it is formed by adding –est to the adjective or adverb—tall, taller, tallest—or by using the word “most” with longer adjectives: interesting, more interesting, most interesting. German is similar. The German superlative is formed by adding –st to an adjective or adverb.

Table 18-10. Forming the Superlative

Adjective + –st English klein kleinst smallest schön schönst nicest, prettiest langsam langsamst slowest

If the adjective ends in –d, –t, –s, –ss, –ß, or –z, add an –e before putting on the superlative ending. Notice also that the short adjectives also take umlauts over the letters a, o, or u, just as they do in the comparative.

Table 18-11. Superlative Forms That Add an –e

Adjective + –est English heiß heißest hottest alt ältest oldest kurz kürzest shortest

But the forms listed in Table 18-11 are not complete. A superlative adjective is a modifier and requires an ending. When it is a predicative adjective (standing alone at the end of a phrase) or an adverb, it is preceded by the preposition am: am kleinsten (the littlest), am ältesten (the oldest), am schönsten (the nicest or prettiest). Let's look at a few example sentences.

Seine Schwester ist am kleinsten. His sister is the littlest. Das weiße Pferd läuft am schnellsten. The white horse runs the fastest. Er glaubt, dass sein Urgroßvater  am ältesten ist. He believes that his great-  grandfather is the oldest.

There are a few irregular superlatives that you should also be familiar with. Listen to your CD for the German pronunciation.

Table 18-12. Irregular Superlatives

When the comparative or superlative adjective modifies a noun directly, it requires an adjective ending like any other adjective. Remember that the form am kleinsten is used as a predicate adjective. Look at how adjective endings are used in the following examples:

Positive: Das ist eine gute Idee! (That's a good idea.)Comparative: Das ist eine bessere Idee! (That's a better idea.)Superlative: Das ist die beste Idee! (That's the best idea.)Positive: Es gibt ein dunkles Zimmer im Keller.(There's a dark room in the cellar.)Comparative: Es gibt ein dunkleres Zimmer im Keller.(There's a darker room in the cellar.)Superlative: Das dunkelste Zimmer ist im Keller.(The darkest room is in the cellar.)

Exercise 18-3

Give the comparative and superlative for each adjective below. For example, when presented with the adjective klein, you say, “kleiner, am kleinsten.”

  • schlecht

    _______________________________________________

  • sauber

    _______________________________________________

  • groß

    _______________________________________________

  • hoch

    _______________________________________________

  • hübsch

    _______________________________________________

  • faul (lazy)

    _______________________________________________

  • klein

    _______________________________________________

  • laut

    _______________________________________________

  • interessant

    _______________________________________________

  • gern

    _______________________________________________

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