Positive, comparative, superlative and... is there a fourth?

3

I'm wondering whether English has something beyond its superlative degree. In my language we call that "túlzófok", it literally translates to "exaggerative degree."

I'm wondering because I often hear and read phrases where the much more is used before the comparative, e.g.

much more stronger

but this is grammatically incorrect. Still, whenever I hear or read something like this, I can't help but think of our "túlzófók" and how people who use a phrase like this may have a similar intention, they may want to exaggerate. I don't know however if that's the case or if it's just something some people do as a habit and without any particular reason.

So, does English have an actual, non-arbitrary way of exaggerating adjectives in a way which is comparable to the superlative, or if it doesn't, has it ever had anything similar?

Korvin

Posted 2017-03-20T17:20:06.150

Reputation: 784

Simple answer: No, there is not. Your first question differs from your last one. – Lambie – 2017-03-20T18:53:20.057

Sounds like you're fishing for positive, comparative, superlative ... hyperbolic? – Robusto – 2017-03-20T21:03:21.500

Answers

3

What I've found, not in English but in Hungarian, is that English normally expresses this idea by using a combination of an adverb or phrase with the superlative, e.g.:

the very best
by far the best
the best of all
the best (strong emphasis on the "the")

English doesn't have an "exaggerative degree" per se but it can express the idea.

Korvin

Posted 2017-03-20T17:20:06.150

Reputation: 784

The best is still the superlative. These are modifiers but they are not related to the degrees. The very best intensifies (modifies) best but is not a "fourth" level. – Lambie – 2017-03-20T18:54:53.200

Funny, I can't think of any word in English that says definitively "I'm exaggerating", so it's impossible to know if someone is serious or not. "This is the best hamburger in the world" for example -- it might be, at least in my opinion. There's no cue that says, "no, not really, I'm just lying for effect." – Andrew – 2017-03-20T19:02:31.217

4

I found this pretty self-explanatory example of a "whimsical" usage that would be comprehensible to most native speakers even if they'd never come across it before...

“Wanna go get some ice cream? I'm buying!” asks Jazmun.
“Sure.”
“You know what?” asks Jazmun.
“What?”
“You are my best...no, my bestest friend.”
“You are mine, too, little sis.”

...where even though everyone knows bestest isn't really a "valid" English word, it's perfectly acceptable in an informal context to use it to mean better than best.


I'll also just flag up these several hundred written instances of more betterer - though as pointed out here, that's more "dialectal" than "whimsically emphatic".

But neither of my examples (or any others, so far as I know) are valid in "standard, formal" English. To be strictly correct, Jazum would have needed to use a separate intensifier, such as very best friend.

FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica

Posted 2017-03-20T17:20:06.150

Reputation: 52 587