Super Scary…Superlatives! Posted by Elizabeth Schmermund on Oct 12, 2015 in Grammar
For the remainder of October, we will be tackling difficult grammar in the “Super Scary” series. This week is “Super Scary…Superlatives!”
Superlatives are adverbs or adjectives that signify the greatest degree or amount of the verb or noun used. In English this would be: “She wrote the best book on the subject.” Here, “best” is the superlative, which is used as an adjective that is modifying the noun”book.” Here’s another example: “The Mediterranean diet is said to be the healthiest diet in the world.” You can also modify an adjective by adding “most,” such as: “She is the most beautiful woman in the world.”
In French, the superlative requires more words than it does in English. To form the superlative in French, simply add the definite article to either plus (more) or moins (less). “The most beautiful painting,” then, would be translated as follows: Le plus beau tableau. For example: J’étais au Louvre et j’ai vu le plus beau tableau du monde! (I was at the Louvre, and I saw the most beautiful painting in the world!) Note here that both the definite article and the adjective must agree with the noun. Here tableau is masculine, thus the definite article remains masculine (le) as does its adjective (beau). If the noun used was feminine, then the definite article and adjective would become la and belle. For example: C’est la plus belle voiture dans le parking! (It’s the most beautiful car in the lot!)
So, to make a superlative in French (it’s not scary, it’s easy!):
le/la/les + plus/moins + adjective/adverb
There are, however, one important irregular superlative form that you should be aware of:
Using bon with plus/moins is not grammatically correct. This works similarly in English, right? You wouldn’t say that something is “most good,” rather you would say something is “the best.”
Bon(ne) (g00d) in its superlative form becomes le/la meilleur(e). For example: Notre-Dame de Paris est le meilleur livre de Victor Hugo. (The Hunchback of Notre Dame is Victor Hugo’s best book.)
Keep in mind that that bon is an adjective; if you are modifying a verb and not a noun, you must use bien instead of bon. The comparative (not superlative) equivalent of bien is mieux…but that’s a lesson for another post!
Now it’s your turn. Can you use the French superlative to tell me something about yourself? Post your superlative sentence in the comments below!