Superlative: of adjectives ending in -y.

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Karmele3, Feb 8, 2007.

  1. Karmele3 Senior Member

    Hi there!

    The superlative forms of "happy" and "friendly" are "happiest" and "friendliest".But, can we say "the most happy" and "the most friendly"?
    What about "unfriendly"? Can we say "the most unfriendly" or "the unfriendliest" is the only alternative?

    Many thanks in advance
  2. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    I have seen both "most happy" and "happiest", as well as "most unfriendly" and "unfriendliest". As far as I know, they are all acceptable. Words with two syllables often seem to allow both versions. It's much more difficult to find a one-syllable word that allows both versions, although I am sure there are a few. :)
  3. Karmele3 Senior Member

    So "the most unfriendly" is as correct as "unfriendliest" ? Some grammars give different oppinions. I do need to know whether both are definitely right.
  4. winklepicker

    winklepicker Senior Member

    English (UK)
    Hola, Karmele. What do you mean by 'right'? Both are used, as JamesM has said; is it for a test or something?
  5. Karmele3 Senior Member


    According to Michael Swan in his Practical English Usage the correct form is "the unfriendliest, the unhappiest" but I´ve heard/I´ve read "the most unfriendly" in England. Besides, we could argue that "unfriendly" is a three-word adjective.
    What do you make of this?
  6. MissFit

    MissFit Senior Member

    In my opinion, both "most unfriendly" and "unfriendliest" are correct--grammar books can be mistaken, you know. (Personally, I prefer "most unfriendly" or "least friendly.") If you need to know definitively so that you can argue with and English teacher, keep in mind that you aren't likely to win an argument with a teacher on our authority.

    Almost any adjective may be modified with more or most, even the ones that have a comparative and superlative form. All of these are correct:
    The sky is clearer today than it was yesterday. The sky is more clear today than it was yesterday.
    My chili recipe is hotter than hers. My chili recipe is more hot than hers.
    I painted the room the coolest shade of blue. I painted the room the most cool shade of blue.
    That was the scariest movie I've ever seen. That was the most scary movie I've ever seen.

    Two exceptions are good/better/best and bad/worse/worst. I don't think anyone would say, "That's the most bad movie..." or "That's the most good movie..."
  7. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    I have to say that I would consider the second sentence in all of these pairs to be very casual English. If I were an English teacher, I would definitely mark "more hot" and "most cool" wrong on an English paper, and I'd have doubts about "most scary", depending on context. "More clear" would work for me in a poetic sense - "A Sky More Clear Than Crystal Tears" or some such thing - but it also sounds odd.

    That's not to say that they aren't heard in casual conversation. :)
  8. winklepicker

    winklepicker Senior Member

    English (UK)
    For me, most works as an intensifier as well.

    The scariest movie I've ever seen doesn't seem half as scary as the most scary movie I've ever seen. Even more so is the most scary movie I've ever seen. Or is that just me?

    That apart, I agree with James: for an exam question for a non-native speaker scariest is almost certainly what is wanted. Most scary does exist though, is in frequent use (esp verbally) and potentially has an extra nuance all of its own.
  9. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    Yes, in spoken conversation "THE most SCARy MOVie I've EVer SEEN" has a great rhythm to it and sets up scary well to intensify its meaning. I still would expect to get raised eyebrows from an English teacher if I wrote it instead of "the scariest movie."
  10. Joelline

    Joelline Senior Member

    USA (W. Pennsylvania)
    American English
    I can't imagine why any English teacher would object to "most + adjective," as in "the most scary" or "the most friendly," etc. They would probably weep with joy that the student hadn't written, "the most scariest" (!) or "the most friendliest" (!) à la Shakespeare!
  11. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    I can give you those, :) but do you feel the same about: "My chili recipe is more hot than hers"?
  12. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I don't mind more and most with two-syllable adjectives. With one-syllable? - more big, most big, more fat, most fat, more hot, most hot ... ... ...
    ... I think not.
    Any persuasive examples out there?

    Incidentally, you do all realise that this thread is meant to be about adjectives ending with -y?
    But then I may be more shy than the most coy contributer in this most gay of threads on the more dry side of the humour median.
  13. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    The only one-syllable "more/most" that leaps to mind is "fun" since we don't say "funner" and "funnest". It seems to me I saw a list of these before, just recently. "Suave" is another one - "more suave", "most suave" rather than "suaver", "suavest".

    "Apt" is another candidate in my book. I don't think I've ever heard or read "apter", "aptest".
  14. Joelline

    Joelline Senior Member

    USA (W. Pennsylvania)
    American English
    Nary a one, unless you count, "In my opinion, most hot peppers are inedible." (joke!)

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