Superlative Adverbs

“Of all the girls at the ball, Priscilla was dressed most beautifully.”

In the above sentence, most beautifully is an adverb form that describes the verb dressed. I could have simply stated that Priscilla was beautifully dressed or that she was dressed more beautifully than Erica. But since I wanted readers to know that her manner of dress far exceeded any other, I used a special type of adverb called a superlative adverb.

What Are Superlative Adverbs?

A superlative adverb is used to compare three or more people, places, or things. It’s used to state that the action performed is to the highest degree within a group or of its kind. They are sometimes preceded by the word “the” but not always.

Bobby talks the loudest of all the boys.
Jill danced the best.

In the opening sentence the superlative form of the adverb beautifully was used to compare three or more manners of dress. Most beautifully is the highest degree of dressing beautifully!

Forming Superlative Adverbs

The rules for forming superlative adverbs are rather straightforward. If the adverb has the same form as a one-syllable adjective simply add the suffix –est to the end of the word.

For example:

Barry slept the longest.
Jack’s bullfrog jumped the highest.
Naomi finished the quickest.

Also, just as with forming superlative adjectives, if the adverb ends with a “y” then change the “y” to “i” and then add –est. Like this:

Kyle and Lindsey arrived early but Luke arrived the earliest.

However, sometimes adding an –est isn’t appropriate. The vast majority of adverbs end in the suffix –ly and to add another suffix isn’t grammatically correct. Plus, it sounds funny. You wouldn’t say dressed beautifullyest would you? Thankfully, there is a much easier way to show the superlative form of these adverbs. All you have to do to form the superlative of adverbs that end in –ly is precede them with most or least.

This computer model operates least efficiently.

Examples of Superlative Adverbs

It’s often helpful to see adverbs in all their forms in order to get a clear idea of the degrees of comparison. Here is a list of several common adverbs in the positive, comparative, and superlative form.

Positive Comparative Superlative
soon sooner soonest
loud louder loudest
quick quicker quickest
fast faster fastest
long longer longest
hard harder hardest
sweetly more sweetly most sweetly
angrily more angrily most angrily
brightly more brightly most brightly
abruptly more abruptly most abruptly
frequently more frequently most frequently
quietly more quietly most quietly
carefully more carefully most carefully
happily more happily most happily
anxiously more anxiously most anxiously
perfect more perfect most perfect
assuredly more assuredly most assuredly
graciously more graciously most graciously

Sentence examples containing superlative adverbs:

Next Friday is the soonest we can arrive.
Josh is the fastest runner on the team.
Caroline smiles the most sweetly.
Stars shine most brightly on a clear night.
Our rotary telephone is the least frequently used device in our house.
Ben moved most quietly as the boys walked down the darkened ally.
The last remark was the least clearly stated.
Karen accepted the award most graciously.
The accident occurred most abruptly.
Lisa drives most carefully in heavy traffic.
I most anxiously await your arrival.
Kerri most assuredly did not do what you accused her of!

Irregular Forms

Some adverbs have irregular forms, which means the superlative can’t be created by adding the suffix –est or by using most or least. Here are some examples:

Many – most

Much – most

Well – best

Bad – worst

Far – farthest/furthest

Little – least

Use these rules and examples to help you with your understanding of the superlative form of adverbs. Just remember that superlatives compare three or more people, places, or things and they are created with the suffix –est or the use of the words most or least. Then, once you’ve memorized a few irregular forms, you’ll quickly find superlative adverbs are a breeze.