French Grammar: Superlatives
French Grammar: Superlatives
la grammaire française: le superlatif
In French, as in English, Superlatives (le superlatif) are similar to comparatives. Superlatives are used when we single someone or something out as the most or the least from among a group. In English, this is often denoted by the adjective ending -est. Superlatives are important to understand in conversations and in reading French.
Superlatives can be used with adjectives, adverbs, or nouns. Let’s look at these separately.
1. Superlatives with adjectives that come after nouns:
To single someone or something out as having the most of a characteristic from among a group, use the following formula (Remember that, when comparing characteristics, the adjective needs to agree in number and gender with the noun it is describing):
le/la/l’/les + noun + le/la/l’/les + plus + adjective
Thor est le super-héros le plus fort.
Thor is the strongest superhero.
To single someone or something out as having the least of a characteristic from among a group, use the following formula (Remember that, when comparing characteristics, the adjective needs to agree in number and gender with the noun it is describing):
le/la/l’/les + noun + le/la/l’/les + moins + adjective
C’est la crêperie la moins chère.
This is the least expensive crêpe restaurant.
*Note that, in both of the examples above, we have to use a definite article in front of the noun AND a definite article in front of the adjective.
2. Superlatives with adjectives that come before nouns:
With an adjective that usually comes before a noun, its superlative form also comes before the noun. In this case, use the following formulas (Remember that, when comparing characteristics, the adjective needs to agree in number and gender with the noun it is describing):
le/la/l’/les + plus + adjective + noun
Marmaduke est le plus grand chien.
Marmaduke is the biggest dog.
le/la/l’/les + moins + adjective + noun
Springfield est la moins jolie ville de l’état.
Springfield is the least pretty town in the state.
*Note that here, only one definite article is used – only in front of the adjective.
Just as the English adjectives “good” and “bad” have irregular superlative forms (“the best” and “the worst”, respectively), the French adjectives bon and mauvais each have an irregular superlative form. Study the information below:
bon(ne)(s) : good –> le/la/les meilleur(e)(s) : the best (this form is an adjective; it describes nouns, so it must agree in number and in gender with the noun it describes)
mauvais(e)(s) : bad –> le/la/les plus mauvais(e)(s) OR le/la/les pire(s) (this form is an adjective; it describes nouns, so it must agree in number and in gender with the noun it describes)
3. Superlatives with adverbs:
To form the superlative of an adverb, use one of the following formulas:
le plus + adverb : the most (adverb)
Yveline parle français le plus couramment.
Yveline speaks French the most fluently.
le moins + adverb : the least (adverb)
Bruno conduit le moins soigneusement.
Bruno drives the least carefully.
Just as the English adverbs “well” and “badly” have an irregular superlative form (“the best” and “the worst”, respectively), the French adverbs bien and mal each have an irregular superlative form. Study the information below:
bien : well –> le mieux : the best (this form is an adverb; it modifies verbs, and it doesn’t change its form)
mal : badly –> le plus mal OR le pis : the worst (these forms are adverbs; they modify verbs, and they don’t change their form)
(Note: In spoken French nowadays, le plus mal is used instead of le pis.)
4. Superlatives with verbs:
To form the superlative with a verb, use one of the following formulas:
verb + le plus : (verb) the most
verb + le moins : (verb) the least
Annick étudie le plus.
Annick studies the most.
David dort le moins.
David sleeps the least.
5. Superlatives with nouns:
To form the superlative with a noun, use one of the following formulas:
le plus de (d’) + noun : the most (noun)
le moins de (d’) + noun : the least (noun)
Jacquot a le plus de jouets.
Jimmy has the most toys.
Denise économise le moins d’argent.
Denise saves the least money.
When you are using superlatives, always use DE / DU / DE LA / DE L’ / DES to mean in or of.
Mon père est l’enfant le plus âgé de sa famille.
My father is the oldest child in his family.
C’est les montagnes russes les plus rapides du monde.
This is the fastest roller coaster in the world.
Alain est l’étudiant le plus intelligent de la classe.
Alain is the most intelligent student in the class.
Londres est la plus grande ville de l’Union Européenne.
London is the biggest city of the European Union.
Sarah est la plus petite des filles.
Sarah is the shortest of the girls.
Ma grand-mère est la personne la plus artistique de ma famille.
My grandmother is the most artistic person in my family.
Le cours de sciences est le moins amusant.
Science class is the least fun.
Vos soeurs sont les étudiantes les plus sérieuses.
Your sisters are the most serious students.
Edouard gagne le moins de tous les ouvriers.
Edouard earns the least of all the workers.
Il a mangé le plus de gâteau.
He ate the most cake.
Mon mari est le meilleur chanteur du monde.
My husband is the best singer in the world.
Paris est la plus belle ville de la France.
Paris is the most beautiful city of France.
Le brocoli est le plus mauvais.
Broccoli is the worst.
Mon frère est le plus grand de la famille.
My brother is the tallest in the family.
Ce train est le train le plus rapide.
This train is the fastest train.
Le nouveau restaurant est le moins cher de la ville.
The new restaurant is the least expensive in the city.
Ce bateau est le plus petit.
This boat is the smallest.
Ce film est le film le plus populaire de l’été.
This movie is the most popular movie of the summer.