superlative without "the"



Is my use of the superlative in the following sentence correct?

People in Germany don't care whether there are Jews, Muslims, Christians, followers of other religions or atheists in a store. They buy the stuff they need where it is cheapest, at least in the majority of cases.

My gut feeling tells me it is correct, but I'm not sure.


Posted 2015-01-17T11:12:25.667

Reputation: 709

Question was closed 2015-01-18T14:29:11.003

Appears to be a duplicate of

– Ben Kovitz – 2015-01-18T08:07:31.897



They buy the stuff they need where it is cheapest, at least in the majority of cases.
Apples in this store are cheapest.

The adjectives used in these sentences are predicative adjectives, and it is okay to omit the before them. They are "part of the predicate", they follow the verb is/are. The use of the before a predicative superlative adjective is optional.

We are only obligated to use the when the superlative adjective is used attributively, that is, when it stands before the noun:

This store sells the cheapest apples in town. (the adjective serves as an attribute of the noun: an attributive adjective)

Where is one hitch to note, that with the superlative construction most + adjective. It tends to be ambiguous in meaning without the when used predicatively:

This apple is most delicious. (very delicious.. or the most delicious of all)
This apple is the most delicious (most delicious of all)

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Posted 2015-01-17T11:12:25.667

Reputation: 36 949

1+1 You might, however, note that determiners are used only with nominals. In the cheapest apples, the governs (or is governed by: theories differ) apples, not cheapest. And in "He offered me three apples and I bought the cheapest, cheapest takes the because it is deployed as a nominal, not an adjective. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2015-01-17T13:10:19.007


Saying "We buy X at where it is cheapest" means "The cost of X at the places where we buy it is as cheap as X would be anyplace else". Saying "We buy X where it is the cheapest. would mean "We buy X at places where it is cheaper than other products those places sell".

Suppose one prefers beverage Y to brand X (or any other alternative)--not by so much as to pay a significant price premium, but enough that if both products are essentially the same price one would much rather have Y. At store #1, X costs $4 and all other brands cost $6; at store #2, all brands cost $2. Other stores charge $3 for all brands. Given a choice of where and what to purchase, one would buy Y from store #2 for $2. Sometimes however, one might get thirsty while stuck in store #1 and, in that case, one would buy X for $4. Note that under that scenario, one would never buy X where it was cheapest (which would be store #2) but only where it was the cheapest (which would be the store where buying X was most expensive).

Effectively, the use of the article changes the meaning of "it". When the article is omitted, "it" refers to the act of purchasing, which is compared against other hypothetical acts of purchase; when the article is included, "it" refers to the thing purchased, compared against other hypothetical things that could be purchased.


Posted 2015-01-17T11:12:25.667

Reputation: 585