English use of Superlative adjectives

The superlative is the form of an adjective or adverb that expresses the highest or a very high degree of the quality of what is being described. For example, if you are describing a noun, in the sentence:
“Everest is the highest mountain in the world”

the word highest is a superlative adjective. If you are describing a verb, use a superlative adverb, e.g.
“Of all the runners, Cathy Freeman ran the fastest.”

The word fastest is a superlative adverb.

For further information, please have a look at the web sites listed below. If you do a search through the document for “superlative” or “superlative adjective”, you should find the relevant information quickly.

English use of Possessive adjectives

” Is the use of the possessive adjective “their” correct in the following sentence:

‘A student studying for their first degree'”?

The answer to this question is both “Yes” and “No”! Strictly speaking, some people might argue that the “correct” form should be either “his” or “her”, depending on the gender of the student. The use of “their” in sentences like this has come about due to a desire to avoid sexism. As it is now common usage, a descriptive grammarian would therefore say that it is “correct”. However, if in doubt, here are a couple of suggestions to avoid the problem altogether:

Firstly, you could use “his or her” or “his/her”, but this can make for some ugly sentences, especially if the possessive adjective is repeated more than once.

Secondly you can just change the noun to plural:
“Students studying for their first degree”.

For further information, please have a look at the web sites listed below. If you do a search through the document for “possessive adjective”, “their” or “sexism”, you should find the relevant information quickly.

http://cmfd.univ.trieste.it//grammar.html#sexist

http://jcomm.uoregon.edu/~cbassett/j203/grammar.html

Comparative adjectives in english

Adjectives of just one syllable form the comparative by adding “-er”:
Bright … brighter
Clear … clearer
Fast … faster

If a one syllable adjective ends in “e”, simply add “r”:
Nice … nicer
Fine … finer
Ripe … riper

For some adjectives, it is necessary to double the last letter before adding “-er”. (For spelling: doubling letters, see next week’s grammar question).
Big … bigger
Slim … slimmer
Flat … flatter

All adjectives of three or more syllables form the comparative with “more “.
Beautiful …more beautiful
Comfortable … more comfortable
Typical … more typical

Adjectives of two syllables are more complicated. To see which is the usual form you should see your dictionary. Most adjectives of two syllables form the comparative with “more”:
Famous …more famous
Thankful … more thankful
Boring …more boring
Faithless … more faithless

However, some adjectives of two syllables form the comparative with “-er”:

Those that end in “y”, change the “y” to “i” and add “-er”:
Happy … happier
Funny … funnier
Easy …easier

Those ending in a vowel-sound that is not stressed:
Yellow …yellower
Simple …simpler
Tender …tenderer

In addition, there are some (common) irregular comparative adjectives:
Good …better
Bad …worse
Far …farther or further
Little (quantity) …less
Much … more
Ill …worse
Old …older or elder