French Superlative Adverbs - Adverbes Superlatifs

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Superlative adverbs express absolute superiority or inferiority. Superiority, the idea that something is "the most ___" or "the ___est," is expressed with le plus ___ in French. Inferiority, meaning that something is "the least ___," is stated with le moins ___.

Notes About French Superlatives

  1. Unlike comparatives, French superlatives require the definite article. For example, Il est le plus grand - "He's the tallest."
  2. Superlatives are most commonly used with adjectives, but you can also use them with adverbs, verbs, and nouns. These comparisons have slightly different constructions for each part of speech. Click in the summary table below for detailed lessons.

French Superlative Constructions

Superlatives with... Required word order
Adjectives le plus/moins + adjective + noun or
le + noun + le plus/moins + adjective
Adverbs le plus/moins + adverb
Nouns le plus/moins + de + noun
Verbs verb + le plus/moins

Comparing With Adjectives

French superlatives have three parts: definite article, superlative word (either plus or moins), and adjective. For example:

Adjective: vert (green)
   le plus vert (the greenest)
   le moins vert (the least green)

Like all adjectives, the adjectives used in superlatives have to agree with the nouns that they modify, and therefore have different forms for masculine, feminine, singular, and plural. In addition, the article that goes in front of the superlative also needs to agree with the noun.

Masculine singular
   le plus vert (the greenest)
   le moins vert (the least green)
Feminine singular
   la plus verte (the greenest)
   la moins verte (the least green)
Masculine plural
   les plus verts (the greenest)
   les moins verts (the least green)
Feminine plural
   les plus vertes (the greenest)
   les moins vertes (the least green)

Note: The above is true for all adjectives except bon and mauvais, which have special superlative forms for superiority.

Superlative Constructions With Adjectives

1. Adjective plus noun:
When using a superlative with an adjective to modify a noun, there's one more thing you have to think about: word order. Most French adjectives follow the nouns they modify, but there are some adjectives that precede nouns, and the same is true for superlatives.

a) With adjectives that follow the noun, the superlative also follows. In addition, the definite article precedes both the noun and the superlative. For example:

   David est l'étudiant le plus fier.
   David is the proudest student.

   C'est la voiture la moins chère.
   It's the least expensive car.

b) With adjectives that precede the noun, you have a choice: you can use the above construction, or you can have the superlative precede the noun. If you choose the latter, you need only one definite article.

   David est le garçon le plus jeune.
   David est le plus jeune garçon.
   David is the youngest boy.

   C'est la fleur la plus jolie.
   C'est la plus jolie fleur.
   That's the prettiest flower.

2. Adjective on its own
If the noun that you are referring to has already been stated or implied, you can leave it out:

   David est le plus fier
   David is the proudest.

   Ayant considéré trois voitures, j'ai acheté la moins chère.
   Having considered three cars, I bought the cheapest (one).

3. Adjective plus de
With either of the above constructions, you can add de plus whatever you are comparing to:

   J'ai acheté la voiture la moins chère de la ville.
   I bought the cheapest car in town.

   David est le plus fier de tous mes étudiants.
   David is the proudest of all my students.

4. Adjective plus que
With either 1 or 2, above, you can add que plus a clause that provides more detail. The verb in the clause may need to be in the subjunctive.

   J'ai acheté la voiture la moins chère que j'aie pu trouver.
   I bought the cheapest car I could find.

   Elle est la plus jolie que je connaisse.
   She's the prettiest that I know.

Comparing with Adverbs

French superlatives with adverbs are very similar to the ones with adjectives. Once again, there are three parts: definite article le, superlative word (either plus or moins), and adverb. For example:

Adverb: prudemment (carefully)
   le plus prudemment (the most carefully)
   le moins prudemment (the least carefully)

Note: The above is true for all adverbs except bien, which has a special superlative form for superiority.

But there are some differences:

  1. Adverbs don't agree with the words they modify, so the definite article in superlatives doesn't either - it is always le.
  2. Superlative adverbs always follow the verbs they modify.
  3. Because they follow the verb, superlatives with adverbs never have two definite articles, the way they sometimes do with adjectives.

Superlative Constructions With Adverbs

1. Adverb on its own

   David écrit le plus lentement.
   David writes the most slowly.

   Qui travaille le moins efficacement ?
   Who works the least efficiently?

2. Adverb with de

   David écrit le plus lentement de mes étudiants.
   David writes the most slowly of my students.

   Qui travaille le moins efficacement de ce groupe ?
   Who works the least efficiently in this group?

3. Adverb with clause

   Voici le musée que je visite le plus souvent.
   Here's the museum I visit most often.

   Jean est l'étudiant qui travaille le moins efficacement.
   Jean is the student who works least efficiently.

Comparing With Nouns

Superlatives with nouns have four parts: definite article le, superlative word (either plus or moins), de, and the noun. For example:

Noun: argent (money)
   le plus d'argent (the most money)
   le moins d'argent (the least money)

Superlative Constructions With Nouns

1. Noun on its own

   C'est David qui a le plus de questions.
   David has the most questions.

   Nicholas achète le moins de livres.
   Nicholas buys the fewest books.

2. Noun with preposition

   Qui a trouvé le plus d'erreurs dans ce texte ?
   Who found the most mistakes in this passage?

   J'ai visité le moins de pays de tous mes amis.
   I've visited the fewest countries out of all my friends.

Comparing With Verbs

Superlatives with verbs have three parts: verb, definite article le, and superlative word (either plus or moins). For example:

Noun: étudier (to study)
   étudier le plus (to study the most)
   étudier le moins (to study the least) 

Superlative Constructions With Verbs

1. Verb on its own

   David écrit le plus.
   David writes the most.

   Qui travaille le moins ?
   Who works the least?

   Ce qui m'a choqué le plus, c'était le mensonge.
   What shocked me the most was the lie.

2. Verb with de

   David écrit le plus de mes étudiants.
   David writes the most out of my students.

   Qui travaille le moins de ce groupe ?
   Who works the least in this group?

   Ce que j'aime le moins de tout ça, c'est le prix.
   What I like least of all / least in all this is the price.

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Team, ThoughtCo. "French Superlative Adverbs - Adverbes Superlatifs." ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2021, Team, ThoughtCo. (2021, December 6). French Superlative Adverbs - Adverbes Superlatifs. Retrieved from Team, ThoughtCo. "French Superlative Adverbs - Adverbes Superlatifs." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 28, 2023).

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