a better / the better/ the best [Comparative adjectives]

englishmania

Senior Member
Português Europeu
Which one is correct?

Who was the better singer - X or Y?

Who was a better singer - X or Y?

Who was the best singer - X or Y?
 
  • Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    They are all correct in various contexts, so context would be essential. However, you must explain your particular difficulties with the question and your own thoughts on the answer (see the forum rule on this type of question). Also, the difference between the first two examples is a matter of the usage of articles rather than comparatives, so this would be a different topic.
     

    englishmania

    Senior Member
    Português Europeu
    I thought the 2nd and 3rd were the only options but then I saw the 1st one so I wanted to know if it's correct.
    What's the difference between the first and second?
    the/a

    Context: There are only 2 singers, I want to compare them.
     

    Miss Julie

    Senior Member
    English-U.S.
    Use "best" when there are three or more things being compared, so your first sentence is the most correct.

    (One thing is good, the second thing is better, the third thing is best.)

    The second sentence wouldn't be right because you're talking about a definite thing: who was THE best (better) singer.

    In informal, spoken English, most people will probably say "best" no matter what, so your third sentence is fine when spoken, but not as grammatically correct when written.

    The same holds true for other adjectives, as in these examples: "Susan is the younger of my two children." "My father was the oldest of eight children."

    Hope that helps! :D
     

    aes_uk

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I completely agree with Miss Julie.

    I would be more likely to say "Who was the best singer - X or Y?", though as Miss Julie says, "Who was the better singer - X or Y?" is better grammatically when you are just comparing 2 things, X and Y.

    Either of these is fine though

    :)
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    In my opinion, both the first and the second are grammatically correct. (The third, since it's been specified that there are only two singers, is not.)
     

    Lodzubelieveit

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Unless it was in the context of X and Y being two participants in a singing contest, and the questioner knows that one of the two won the contest, but can't remember which.
     

    Miss Julie

    Senior Member
    English-U.S.
    In my opinion, both the first and the second are grammatically correct. (The third, since it's been specified that there are only two singers, is not.)
    On second thought, I agree with Parla that the second sentence is fine as written.

    Unless it was in the context of X and Y being two participants in a singing contest, and the questioner knows that one of the two won the contest, but can't remember which.
    At first I was thinking of it strictly like this, in terms of it being a contest, in which you'd ask who was THE better singer. (I have the "American Idol" TV show in mind!)

    But if you're just speaking in general terms, you can simply ask something like, "Who is a better singer, my mother or your mother?"

    (Hope I didn't confuse you! :eek:)
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    "The better" is a superlative that only applies when comparing two people or things. "The best" is not wrong when comparing just two, but "the better" makes clear that the comparison is between two only.
     

    Lodzubelieveit

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    At first I was thinking of it strictly like this, in terms of it being a contest, in which you'd ask who was THE better singer. (I have the "American Idol" TV show in mind!)

    But if you're just speaking in general terms, you can simply ask something like, "Who is a better singer, my mother or your mother?"

    (Hope I didn't confuse you! :eek:)
    I meant two participants in a singing contest that had more than two in it.
     
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