"The" before a superlative adjective: why there is no definite article in "Your woodwork was worst of all"


I'd like to know, if you could tell me this :D
So, there's this sentence:

Your woodwork was worst of all.

And there's the other one:

The 4th of July was (the?) hottest day this summer.

I wonder why there is no "the" in the first one? And why in the second one there is?

English is not my native language, so can someone explain it to me in the most simple way? :D Thank you


Posted 2015-11-07T10:58:21.833

Reputation: 41


Possible duplicate of The difference between the superlative with "the" and without "the"

– None – 2015-11-07T15:14:53.450

From a quick scan through the old questions this question is supposed to be a duplicate of, I think they address the first example (Your woodwork was worst of all), but not the second (The 4th of July was (the?) hottest day this summer), which I think is ungrammatical without the. – Damkerng T. – 2015-11-25T09:46:26.067



The main reason is that the first example is not correct. It would be 'worst of all', not 'worse of all'
('worse' is comparative, 'worst' is superlative).

'The' should be included in both these cases, for superlative usage. 'Your woodwork was the worst of all', 'The 4th of July was the hottest day'

However, you are correct: for comparative we don't use 'the' while for superlative we do.
Comparative examples: - 'Your woodwork was worse than all the others' - 'The 4th of July was hotter than the previous week'

It is similar to the difference between 'the' and 'a'. 'The' is 'definite', 'a' is 'indefinite'.

Using a superlative is all about singling out a particular item for attention, which requires being definite about it. Comparing things is less definite ('These ones are hotter than those ones, but some other ones are even hotter')

By the way, there is of course a different and more specialised construction where you do use 'the' with a comparative e.g. 'the hotter, the better' to mean 'the more that something is hot, the better it is also'

However, outside of that special case, you would normally only use 'the' with a comparative if your 'the' was actually referring to the noun, rather than the adjective ('The hotter water is used to warm the pot' -> 'the' is already needed in the simpler sentence 'The water is used to warm the pot', so it doesn't have anything to with 'hotter').


Posted 2015-11-07T10:58:21.833

Reputation: 141

3We can also use "the" with the comparative when the comparison is between two things in terms of a particular quality: "I must admit, my brother was the better athlete." – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2015-11-07T12:18:50.907

Hmm ... Here's 15, 100 results from printed book that show that was worst of all is completely grammatical

– Araucaria - Not here any more. – 2015-11-07T12:22:56.340

Good point @TRomano: and that really helps to make explain it. "Better than ..." vs "The better of ...". In a superlative, we are always talking about "of ...", so it is always 'the'. – user3600150 – 2015-11-07T12:23:08.027

@Auracaria: not in that context. Yes for "Worst of all, you ... ". No for "your woodwork was worst of all", if it means (as it appeared to here) 'of all the people in the class'. – user3600150 – 2015-11-07T12:24:52.183

@user3600150 I disagree, maybe have a look at the examples. It's less common but it is grammatical, where worst is a predicative complement. – Araucaria - Not here any more. – 2015-11-07T12:26:45.683

1@user3600150 It will be grammatical whenever it is a PC or when it does not have a following noun. So "Bob was bad, Barry was worse, but Brenda was worst of all" is fine, but "Bob was a bad player, Barry was worse but Brenda was worst player of them all" is ungrammatical, it seems to me, anyhow. – Araucaria - Not here any more. – 2015-11-07T12:30:49.673

1Well the first 10 results are all exactly as per my comment ... all refer to a hypothetical list of problems and indicate the worst of them. (equivalent to 'First of all'). But maybe that answers the OP's question ... you can use it without 'the' when it refers to 'of all' (typically, in I think all those cases) as part of a list of points you are making, or alluding to. You need 'the' if you mean 'the worst of a set of things' – user3600150 – 2015-11-07T12:32:43.250