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French Superlatives

Superlatives (greatest inferiority or superiority)

One combines the appropriate definite article with:

– “plus” and an adjective/adverb to express greatest superiority (e.g. le plus loin / the farthest)

– “moins” and an adjective/adverb to express greatest inferiority (e.g. la moins haute / the least high).

French

English

Superlative

(greatest inferiority)

le/la/les moins adjective  (que)

the least … (than)

le moins de noun  (de)

the least … (of)

le moins adverb

the least …

Superlative

(greatest superiority)

le/la/les plus adjective  (que)

the most … (than)

le plus de noun  (de)

the most …

le plus adverb

the most …

The appropriate definite articles are:

le if the noun the adjective refers to is singular and masculine

Le plus grand arbre (sing., masc.) de la forêt / The greatest tree in the forest

la if the noun the adjective refers to is singular and feminine

La pire aventure (sing., fem.) de sa vie / The worse adventure of his life

le with an adverb

Le plus facilement possible / In the easiest way possible

les if the noun the adjective refers to is plural (either masculine or feminine)

Les plus grandes soldes (plur., fem.) de l’année / The biggest sales of the year

For adjectives and adverbs, you must use the comparative form expressing superiority to build the superlative.  For all but the six exceptions listed below (3 adjectives & 3 adverbs), this comparative form is the same as the adjective (e.g. excitant => le plus excitant / exciting => the most exciting) or adverb (e.g. souvent => le moins souvent / often => the least often) itself.

Examples:

Ils viennent d’ouvrir le plus grand magasin de Paris / They just opened the greatest store in Paris

Elle veut la solution la plus rapide / She wants the quickest solution

Tu voulais le prix le plus bas / You wanted the lowest price

The superlatives of the irregular adjectives/adverbs are as follows:

Irregular Adjective Superlative:

bon => good

le/la/les meilleur(e)(s) (NOT le plus bon) =>  best (superlative)

mauvais => bad

le/la/les plus mauvais(e)(s) (le/la/les pire(s)) => worst (superlative)

petit => small

le/la/les plus petit(e)(s) (le/la/les moindre(s))=> smallest (superlative)

Irregular Adverb Superlative:

bien => well

le mieux (NOT le plus bien)  => best (superlative)

peu => little

**le/la/les moins (NOT le plus peu)   => least (superlative)

beaucoup => very, much

**le/la/les plus (NOT le plus beaucoup)  => most (superlative)

** These two are exceptions to the “only le + adverb” rule.  This is because they serve as the superlative forms of adverbs peu and beaucoup but they also serve as the basis for expressing the superlative of inferiority or superiority with adjectives.

Examples:

Faites le mieux que vous pouvez! / Do the best you can!

De nous tous, c’est elle qui aime le chien le moins / Of us all, it’s her who loves the dog the least

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