In the last lesson, we covered how to express comparatives in Spanish. This lesson is about closely related subject. You will learn what relative and absolute superlatives are and how to express them in Spanish.
Remember that we form the superlatives in English generally by using “the most” before the adjective, for instance “the most” intelligent girl. The negative is formed by using “the least”, for instance “the least intelligent girl”. These kinds of superlatives are called relative superlatives. And we will first see how they are built in Spanish. The logic is very similar to the formation of superlatives in English.
The Spanish superlatives are very similar to the comparatives. You basically use the same words to express comparatives with the exception of adding the definite articles. Recall from the previous lesson that the comparatives are formed by using más and menos. When these words are used without definite article, they indicate comparison, meaning more and less respectively. But, if you use them with definite articles, i.e. with “el/las/los/las”, they mean “the most” and “the least”.
- Él es más guapo means he is more handsome but
- Él es el más guapo means he is the handsomest.
When making comparisons about ages, use the following structure:
- Yo soy menor que mi hermana I am younger than my sister
- Yo soy mayor que mi hermana I am older than my sister
You form the superlatives in this case as follows
- Yo soy el mayor de mi familia I am the oldest in my family
- Yo soy el menor de mi familia I am the youngest in my family
Use of “de” with relative superlatives
To state that something/someone is superlative in context of something, you need to use the preposition “de” not “en”.
- Ella es la estudiante más inteligente de la escuela (she is the most intelligent student in the school)
“de la esculea” is used in this case, not en la escuela.
Recall that if the definite article “el” is used after the preposition “de”, the contraction del is used:
- Ella es la chica más inteligente del mundo (she’s the most intelligent girl in the world)
To sum up, the sentence structure for relative superlatives is always
noun + más + adjective/adverb + de + noun
It is very important that you do not forget to use the definite articles together with the articles as well.
In the context of superlatives, you should also learn that there is a second group of superlatives where you do not state that something or someone is “the most of ... “ but that something or someone is “very ...”. These kinds of superlatives are called absolute superlatives. For example “he is very intelligent” is a way to express absolute superlatives in English.
In Spanish, there are three other ways which can be used for this aim.
First one is to use -ísimo/-a. As we saw in lesson on Spanish suffixes, the suffix “–ísimo/-a” is used to mean “very”. That’s why, it might be considered as another way to express superlatives in Spanish:
Un hombre riquísimo (a very rich man)
For the same purpose the word “muy” (very) can be used as well. Muy is to be followed by an adjective or adverb.
Carlos es muy inteligente (Carlos is very intelligent)
There is also the word sumamente which can be used for similar purposes.
Carlos es sumamente inteligente (Carlos is extremely intelligent)
As we covered in lesson on comparatives, there are some irregular adjectives/adverbs which are not used with más or menos. Instead, they have their own comparatives. Same is correct for the superlative forms:
bueno (good): mejor (better); el major (the best)
malo (bad): peor (worse); el peor (the worst)
grande (old): mayor (older); el mayor (the oldest)
pequeño (young): menor (younger);, el menor (the youngest)
Also learn the following
máximo: the superlative of grande.
pésimo: the superlative of malo