Understanding Grammar: Superlatives
In this week's Premier Skills English Podcast, Rich is having problems choosing presents to buy for family and friends. Jack thinks the easiest thing to do is buy everyone the same present. What do you think this present is? The language focus is on superlative adjectives. Your task is to create a 'best' list. Tell us about the best football match you've ever seen, the most exciting film you've ever watched or the tastiest food you've ever tasted. Don't forget to listen to the end of the podcast because we have a new football phrase for you to guess.
Understanding Grammar: Superlatives
Jack: Hello my name’s Jack
Rich: and I’m Rich and welcome to this week’s Premier Skills English podcast
Jack: Where we talk about football and help you with your English.
Rich: We recommend that you listen to this podcast on the Premier Skills English website because that is where we have the transcript, language examples, activities, quizzes and a discussion page to help you understand everything we talk about.
Jack: However, if you’re listening on Apple Podcasts, you can leave answers to our questions in the review section. We do read all the reviews and would love to hear from you.
Rich: Don’t forget that we have our football English podcast called This Week that you can listen to at the start of every week.
Jack: In This Week we talk about the latest action from the Premier League and help you with football vocabulary. It’s on the Premier Skills English homepage now.
Rich: In today’s podcast, we’re going to focus on grammar. We’re going to look at superlative adjectives.
Jack: We use superlative adjectives or sometimes we just call them superlatives to compare three or more people or things.
Rich: You’ve probably studied this before. First, you study comparatives, for example, Liverpool are better than Arsenal, Liverpool play more exciting football than Arsenal, Liverpool fans must be happier than Arsenal fans at the moment.
Jack: Yes, OK, we’ve got that. And after comparatives, you probably studied superlatives.
Rich: Liverpool are the best team in the Premier League, Liverpool play the most exciting football on the planet and Liverpool fans must be the happiest football fans on earth right now.
Jack: So, there you heard a few examples of superlatives or superlative adjectives. In this podcast, we’re going to remind you how to use superlatives correctly and look at a few difficult examples.
Rich: In this week’s roleplay, we’re going to be buying presents for people.
Jack: Well, more precisely, we’re thinking about what presents to buy for people. Christmas is in a couple of weeks and we don’t know what to get for family and friends.
Rich: And in this week’s task you will need to use some superlative adjectives.
Jack: Great, but before you hear the roleplay and we look at that grammar, we need to look at last week’s football phrase.
Last week’s Football Phrase
Jack: If you didn’t hear our football phrase last week we’re going to give you one more chance to guess now. We’ll give you the correct answer at the end of the show when we give you a new football phrase.
Rich: A big well done if you got it right last week - it was a really difficult one.
Jack: Yes, well done to Luibomyr from Ukraine and Lakerwang from China who were the only listeners to get the phrase exactly right. Let’s hear it one more time. Do you know what the phrase is?
Rich: The phrase is ***** **********. The phrase is used when fans complain about the decisions made by the person in charge of a game of football - usually because decisions don’t go in their team’s favour. The first word in the phrase means bad or dishonest and is quite informal. Fans might say ‘the match was ruined by some ***** **********’ if they think decisions didn’t go their way.
Jack: We’ll give you the answer at the end of the show and we’ll have a new football phrase for you to guess.
Introduction to Roleplay
Rich: As we said earlier, in this week’s roleplay, we’re thinking about Christmas and what presents to buy for people.
Jack: While you are listening to the roleplay, we have a question for you to answer.
Rich: The question is: What does Jack suggest I buy for my sister?
Jack: That’s the longest shopping list I’ve ever seen. What are you doing?
Rich: It’s not a shopping list. Well, I suppose it is. I’m writing down what to get everyone for Christmas.
Jack: I don’t need a list. It’s all in my head. It’s not the most difficult thing to remember because I only buy one present.
Rich: One present? Are you serious?
Jack: Yeah! I buy the same thing for everyone. It’s the simplest and easiest thing to do.
Rich: So, those socks you got for me last year with the little footballs on them.
Jack: Yeah, my dad got some, my sister got them, my cousins and all my friends got some. I bought them online, one-click - done. I got a massive discount, too. Cheapest Christmas ever.
Rich: And the least thoughtful. I’ve been here for an hour already.
Jack: Let’s have a look. Lots of people there. Are you sure you don’t want to buy socks?
Rich: No socks.
Jack: Mugs? Mugs are good.
Rich: No Mugs.
Jack: How about biscuits?
Rich: You’re doing it wrong. You have to think about the person you’re buying the present for first and then come up with an idea.
Jack: OK OK - what have you got there? Let’s see your list.
Rich: Here you are.
Jack: Hmmm... Uncle Pete? You’ve just written football. He’s 78! I think he’s past his best to be honest.
Rich: He doesn’t play anymore. He did in his time though - he’s always talking about when he was one of the best central defenders for York City’s youth reserve teams in the late 1950s.
Jack: One of the best. I don’t doubt it.
Rich: He’s got to be the biggest Manchester Utd fans I know. He’s got United memorabilia all over his house. I’m trying to get him a signed photo or portrait of a player. I’ve seen this one of Ronaldo but it’s a bit pricey.
Jack: You should try the market in town. They’ve got one of the largest collections of old junk, I mean football memorabilia in town. Loads of old photos of players from the past I bet he’d like one of George Best or something.
Rich: That sounds promising. I’ll check it out later.
Jack: What’s this? A bed for Billie?
Rich: Yeah, I’ve seen the most comfortable looking bed in Aldi.
Jack: You’re buying a bed from Aldi as a Christmas present?
Rich: It’s on offer. It comes with a nice fleece blanket. She’s been looking a bit cold in the mornings so I thought she’d like a new bed.
Jack: That’s the weirdest present I’ve ever heard of.
Rich: You know Billie’s my new dog?
Jack: Ah! That makes sense now. Thank goodness for that. I was wondering how you were going to wrap it up.
Rich: That’d be silly. She can’t unwrap presents.
Jack: OK. What are you getting for your dad?
Rich: Cuttlefish bones.
Jack: Sorry? That’s another odd-sounding present.
Rich: They are for his budgies. You know - little parrots.
Jack: And they like cuttlefish bones?
Rich: They love them. They are the best thing for cleaning their beaks. They look like little surfboards.
Jack: Fair enough - you seem pretty confident about that gift. Erm... Who else is on that list? Your sister. You haven’t written anything next to her name.
Rich: I know. The thing is, she’s the trickiest person to buy something for. I never know what to get her.
Jack: Is it your eldest sister? What is she into?
Rich: Yeah. She’s into the environment - she likes walks in the countryside. She’s into technology but she’s probably bought everything she wants or needs already.
Jack: Here, let me type this in. Christmas present for sister … here we go best Christmas gifts for sisters, 42 greatest things to buy for sisters, 25 fabulous Christmas presents for your sister.
Rich: Let’s have a look. Bath and shower stuff, things for the home, kitchen things. These are probably the worst, most sexist presents I’ve ever seen.
Jack: You could always buy her socks!
Rich: Did you get the answer to our question? What does Jack suggest I buy for my sister?
Jack: Well, the answer, of course, is socks. The best present anyone can ever get for family or friends!
Rich: I’m not sure about that. Right, let’s move on to the language focus. This week we’re looking at superlative adjectives. We used lots of them in the roleplay.
Jack: We use superlative adjectives to compare three or more people, places or things.
Rich: The first thing to remember is that there are two forms of superlative adjectives. Some superlatives use the letters -est at the end of the regular adjective and some superlatives use the most before the regular adjective.
Jack: Let’s look at an example of each from the roleplay. I said to Rich ‘that’s the longest shopping list I’ve ever seen’.
Rich: And Jack said Christmas lists are not the most difficult thing to remember.
Jack: In the first example, the adjective is long and to make the superlative we add the and then the adjective with -est. In the second example, the adjective is difficult and to make the superlative we add the most before the adjective.
Rich: We add -est when the adjective is one syllable like long. Long becomes the longest. There are some spelling rules to remember here.
Jack: When the adjective ends with a vowel followed by a consonant like with the adjective ‘big’ we double the consonant.
Rich: So, the biggest has two Gs and the thinnest has two Ns.
Jack: When the adjective is three or more syllables long we use the most before the adjective. Difficult becomes the most difficult.
Rich: Let’s do a little test. I’ll say an adjective and you have to say the superlative before Jack. Let’s do an example: long
Jack: The longest
Rich: That was a bit too quick. Give them time. Another example: difficult
Jack: ... the most difficult
Rich: Great. Right, let’s do a few more. Big.
Jack: The biggest
Jack: The most interesting
Jack: The largest
Jack: The most generous
Rich: That’s pretty easy but we also have to remember that there are some very common irregular superlatives.
Jack: The adjectives good, bad and far all very common and irregular. Good becomes the best, bad becomes the worst and far becomes the furthest or farthest.
Rich: OK, so that’s adjectives with one syllable and adjectives with three or more syllables but we have a problem, don’t we?
Jack: What about adjectives with two syllables? Here the rules are not so simple.
Rich: The first rule is that if the adjective ends in a -y like easy or tricky, then we drop the -y and add -iest.
Jack: In the roleplay, we said it’s the easiest thing to do and she’s the trickiest person to buy a present for.
Rich: With most other two-syllable adjectives we use the most. We say that’s the most thoughtful present, thank you.
Jack: And there are some two-syllable adjectives that you can use in both forms. Adjectives such as stupid, common and polite are adjectives that can be used in both forms.
Rich: There are also some common phrases we use with superlatives.
Jack: We often use in or of after superlatives. We say things like, he’s the best footballer in the world or that goal was the best of the lot or the best of the week.
Rich: We often use one of before superlatives - one of the best goals I ever saw was by Diego Maradona against England.
Jack: Or one of the worst goals I ever saw was by Diego Maradona against England. It was in the same match!
Rich: Finally, if you want to say the opposite of a superlative you can use the least instead of the most. I said socks were the least thoughtful present you could buy.
Jack: I think we use the least more often with longer superlatives. We say things like he was the least energetic of the athletes or he was the least enthusiastic about the idea.
Rich: I think you’re right. When we want to say the opposite of simple one-syllable adjectives like big or fat we tend to change the adjective rather than use ‘the least’.
Jack: We’ve got more examples and activities connected to superlatives on the website where you can practise the language we’ve been looking at in this podcast.
Rich: This week’s task is called The best list ever. What we we want you to do is finish the sentences with your own ideas.
Jack: We want you to complete the sentences in the comments section and be sure to look at the comments from other listeners too, to see if you have the same ideas.
Rich: The sentences are:
Number one: The best footballer of all time is ...
Number two: The most exciting film is ...
Number three: The most interesting book is ...
Number four: The most beautiful piece of music is ...
Number five: The tastiest food is ...
Number six: The best gift I’ve ever received is …
Jack: Try to give reasons for your answers and use superlative adjectives where you can.
Rich: Ok, it’s time for this week’s football phrase.
Jack: I think it was the most difficult phrase we’ve ever had last week so let’s make this week’s phrase a little easier.
Rich: I think you’re right. It’s your turn, Jack.
Jack: OK, this week’s phrase is *** ** ***. This phrase is usually used to describe the action when an attacker is running towards goal and has the ball at their feet with only the goalkeeper to beat to score a goal. A commentator might say she’s *** ** *** with the keeper - she must score!
Rich: That’s a good one. I think a few will get the right answer.
Jack: If you’re still thinking about last week’s very tricky football phrase - the answer was dodgy refereeing.
Rich: Right, that’s all we have time for this week! Don’t forget to write your answers to our questions and make a guess at our football phrase in the comments below. If you get it right, we’ll announce your name on next week’s show.
Jack: Bye for now and enjoy your football!
How much did you understand?
In the podcast, Rich and Jack used a few difficult words and phrases. Do you know the words in bold?
I got a massive discount, too. Cheapest Christmas ever.
You have to think about the person first and then come up with an idea.
He’s got United memorabilia all over his house.
I’ve seen this signed photo of Ronaldo but it’s a bit pricey.
They’ve got one of the largest collections of old junk, I mean football memorabilia, in town
That’s the weirdest present I’ve ever heard of.
I was wondering how you were going to wrap it up.
These are probably the worst, most sexist presents I’ve ever seen.
Try the activity below, then, listen to the podcast again to hear how we used the words. This can really help your understanding.
Comparatives & Superlatives: A Review
In this week's podcast, Jack and Rich used lots of superlative forms. Before we look at the language in the roleplay in more detail, let's review how we use comparative and superlative forms. Here's a summary:
We use comparative adjectives to describe people and things. Normally, when an adjective is one syllable or ends with a 'y' we add '-er' to the adjective and when it is two or more syllables we use more + adjective. Here are some examples that Rich used in the podcast:
Liverpool are better than Arsenal.
Liverpool play more exciting than football than Arsenal.
Liverpool fans must be much happier at the moment than Arsenal fans.
We use superlative adjectives to describe the best or most extreme quality of something within a group of things. Normally, when an adjective is one syllable or ends with a 'y' we add -est to the adjective and often when it is two syllables and when the adjective is three or more syllables we use the most + adjective. Here are some examples from the podcast that Rich used:
Liverpool are the best team in the Premier League.
Liverpool play the most exciting football on the planet.
Liverpool fans must be the happiest fans on earth right now.
Phrases with superlatives
Jack and Rich used a lot of superlative adjectives in this week's roleplay. It is also very common to use specific prepositional phrases with superlatives. Take a look at the phrases in bold from the podcast:
I think Lionel Messi is the best player in the world.
One of the best goals I ever saw was by Diego Maradona against England.
That goal by Kevin de Buryne was the best of the week.
His third goal was the best of the lot.
Present perfect with superlatives
Superlatives often go together with the present perfect. Some examples include:
That's one of the best goals I've ever seen.
The most interesting book I've ever read is ...
The tastiest food I've ever tried is ...
The most spectacular place I've ever been to is ...
In this week's task, you can practise some of these types of sentence and in the activity below, you can test your understanding of some of the phrases we looked at in the podcast.
Creating a 'best' list
This week’s task is to write the best list ever. Complete the sentences with your own ideas and give reasons. Try to use superlative adjectives in your answers. Don't forget to look at the comments from other listeners to see if you have the same ideas.
Here are your six sentences:
- The best footballer of all time is ...
- The most exciting film is ...
- The most interesting book is ...
- The most beautiful piece of music is ...
- The tastiest food is ...
- The best gift I’ve ever received is ...
Write your answers in the comments section below and don't forget to make a guess at this week's football phrase!