Russian Language Grammar

    The Superlative Degree

Only qualitative adjectives have a superlative degree. There are two forms of the superlative:  the Simple and the Compound.

The Simple Superlative

1. The simple superlative is formed by adding to the stem of the positive degree

   (a)    the suffix -ейший (-ейшая, -ейшее, -ейшие):

бедный:  беднейший (человек)

the poorest (man)

богатая:  богатейшая (страна)

the richest (country)

   (b)    the suffix -айший (-айшая, -айшее, -айшие) to the stems ending in г, к or x; a mutation of consonants then takes place:

строгий:  строжайший (выговор)

the sternest (reprimand)

высокие:  высочайшие (горы)

the highest (mountains)

2. A few superlatives are formed irregularly: хороший: лучший;  плохой: худшиймаленький: меньший.

3. A superlative may be formed by using the prefix наи-. In current speech this prefix is added only to the following adjectives: больший, меньший, высший, лучший and худший.

    наилучший способ

    the (very) best way

    наименьшие потери

    the smallest losses

    4. Sometimes, in conversational Russian, the superlative is formed by adding the prefix пpe- to the positive degree:

      премилый человек

      an awfully nice man

      пренеприятное известие

      a very pleasant news

      The simple superlative is declined:

      решить труднейшую задачу   

      to solve a most difficult problem

      оказаться в пренеприятном положeнии

      to find oneself in a most unpleasant situation

      с наилучшими пожеланиями

      with (very) best wishes

      The Compound Superlative

      The compound superlative is formed by adding the pronoun самый (the most) to the positive degree. The compound form has three genders and two numbers:


      самый интересный урок


      самая интересная лекция


      самое интересное письмо


      самые интересные книги

      Both parts of this form are declined:

      перед самым интересным уроком

      before the most interesting lesson

      после самой интересной лекции

      after the most interesting lecture

      The compound superlative may also be formed with наиболее (the most), or наименее (the least), added to the positive degree of any gender or number. In this construction, only the adjective is declined:

      перед наиболее интересным уроком

      before the most interesting lesson

      после наименее интересных лекций

      after the least interesting lectures

      Usage of Superlative Degree


         (a) The simple form is used infrequently. It does enter, however, into а number of expressions where actually no comparison is being made. In these, the superlative merely notes that a particular characteristic is possessed to a great degree:

      милейшие люди

      very nice people

      глупейшее письмо

      an awfully stupid letter

      в кратчайший срок

      in an extremely short time (as soon as possible)

      он изменился к худшему

      he has changed for the worst

      всё к лучшему

      everything is for the best

      чистейший предрассудок

      pure prejudice

      высшее образование

      highest (college) education

      до мельчайших подробностей

      with minute details

      с лучшими пожеланиями

      with best wishes

      с величайшим удовольствием

      with greatest pleasure

         (b) The simple superlative is not formed from adjectives which do not have a simple comparative, nor from certain others: громкий – loud;   молодой – young;   сухой – dry;   узкий – narrow.


         (а)   The compound superlative with самый is the one most widely used.

         (b)   The compound superlative with наиболее or наименее is sometimes encountered in conversational Russian, but more often in written or official language.


      The superlative degree may be expressed:

         (a) With the aid of qualifiers in the genitive case:

      самая трудная часть грамматики

      the hardest part of the grammar

         (b) With the simple comparative followed by the genitive case of все or всё.

      Это дороже всего.

      This is more valuable than anything else.

      Он старше всех.

      Не is the oldest (of all).

         (c) With the aid of prepositions – most frequently with из.

      величайшее из его произведений

      the greatest of his works

      Note also:

      самый высокий дом в городе

      the highest house in the city

      самый талантливый среди начинающих писателей

      the most talented among the beginning writers

         (d) Frequently, with the combinations один из, одна из, одно из, одни из.

      один из самых важных вопросов

      one of the most important questions

      одна из самых трудных задач

      one of the hardest problems