Grammar: do you write ESTs when they should be ERs?

It’s not exactly the end of the world, but did you know if you only have two children you don’t have an ‘oldest’ or ‘eldest?’

writing tips
(Or a ‘youngest,’ for that matter.) Everyone today seems to forget that the suffix ‘est’ should only be used when writing/talking about more than two items, people, etc. If it’s just two, the suffix is ‘er.’ And by the way…

‘Elder-eldest’ or ‘older-oldest?’
According to Merriam Webster, ‘elder’ and ‘eldest’ are only
used to refer to persons, whereas ‘older’ and ‘oldest’ are
used to refer to both persons and things.
More on the
detail of that here if you’re interested!

In casual conversation these things really don’t matter and we mustn’t be pedantic. But in more formal communication, especially in writing, it’s worth getting as many grammatical issues right: it’s just as quick and easy to write the correct word as it is to write the incorrect one.

Woman writing

In formal writing, it’s worth getting as many grammar issues right as you can.

The above applies to one and occasionally two syllable adjectives

Good – better – best
Quick – quicker – quickest
Fast – faster – fastest
Nice – nicer – nicest
Thin – thinner – thinnest
Fat – fatter – fattest
Fancy – fancier – fanciest
Easy – easier – easiest
Pretty – prettier – prettiest

With longer adjectives you write ‘more’ and ‘most’ or ‘the most’ to qualify them

The boy was devious
The boy was more devious than his brother
The boy was the most devious of the three siblings
NOT
The boy was deviouser than his brother
The boy was the deviousest of the three siblings

What you don’t do is combine ‘er-est’ and ‘more-most’

In other words…the following are wrong although you do hear and see similar goofs:
Her sister was more nicer than she is
That was the most nicest meal I’ve had in a long time
My son has been much more happier since he has changed schools
He lifts the most heaviest weights of anyone in our gym
I’d love a more quieter life but it’s tough with a family and a full time job

And English being utterly crazy, there are some exceptions
English grammar

What other madness in English do you enjoy?

Probably the most interesting exception is the word ‘fun.’ Often today people use ‘fun’ as an adjective: a fun party, a fun fashion show, a fun restaurant.

Now try saying:
The Smiths’ party was funner than that of the Walkers.
The Mexican restaurant was the funnest of all in that town.

Problem: the word ‘fun’ actually is a noun

However, it can be used as an adjective when it’s qualified by ‘more’ and ‘the most’…
The Smiths’ party was more fun than that of the Walkers.
The Mexican restaurant was the most fun of all in that town.

And to round off the English language madness
‘Funny,’ though related to ‘fun,’ is an adjective only, so you get ‘funnier’ and ‘funniest.’

What other madness in English do you enjoy?

Please share!

 

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