very + superlative adjectives ending with the suffix –est

audiolaik

Senior Member
Polish
Hello,

I've decided to turn to you for help, because I haven't been able to find any reasonable explanation. Here is an excerpt taken from an article on the issue of adjectives and boundedness. (By the way, Loob, thank you!) The author says that the use of very with the superlative formed by the -est is strictly limited. She offers the following examples:"This is the very best film I ever saw."and"This is the very cheapest car in the showroom." Then she says this:

But we cannot apply very to all superlative adjectives ending with
the suffix –est in this way. (?He is the very kindest person I know ?, This is the very smallest picture in the museum). I have no explanation for these exceptions.
Do you know any explanation for these exeptions?:)

Thank you!
 
  • It's extreme, yes, but also logically incorrect. There can only be one "best film I ever saw" or one "cheapest car in the showroom." Using "very" as an intensifier is meaningless. It's like saying "very unique." We do it sometimes for emphasis, but it should not be used routinely.

    I do agree with the author you quote that the usage sounds more natural with some superlatives - "best" being the most familiar - than with others, but as far as I know it's not more correct in such cases, just more common.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    This reminds me of the adjective use of 'very' in 'This is the very place/thing', where it contributes a meaning something like "indeed". In its adverb use, I would accept 'very best' and add 'very same': It's the very same thing we saw yesterday. But I wouldn't use it even with 'cheapest'.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Interesting (and scary!) article, audio. Not sure why you're thanking me - did I point you in its direction in some long-ago thread?:eek:

    Personally, I think I'd keep it simple, and use very as an intensifier of only the superlatives best and worst. It can be used with a few other superlatives, but (for example) "the very cheapest car in the show-room" sounds odd to me, though I think I would happily say "she bought the very cheapest car she could".

    Best avoided, I reckon:)
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Oh dear ... is it just me? Very cheapest car, very highest mountain, very stupidest question ... all sound fine to me ...
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    OK, pondering further...

    Perhaps very + superlative works when there's a clause rather than a phrase after it?

    She bought the very cheapest car she could buy:tick:
    She bought the very cheapest car in the showrooom:confused:

    He climbed the very highest mountain he could climb:tick:
    He climbed the very highest mountain in the world:confused:




    I expect it's just me:eek:
     

    ptetpe

    Member
    Mandarin
    Oh dear ... is it just me? Very cheapest car, very highest mountain, very stupidest question ... all sound fine to me ...
    You are not alone:)
    Collins Cobuild English Grammar says:

    2.173 "Very" can only be used with superlatives formed by adding '-est' or with irregular superlatives such as "the best" and "the worst".
    ..the very earliest computeries.
    It was of the very highest quality.

    More examples from the corpus:
    "the very smallest": http://corpus.byu.edu/bnc/
    "the very kindest":http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&client=opera&rls=en&hs=R2l&q=%22the+very+kindest%22&btnG=Search&aq=f&oq=&aqi=
     
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