Function 1: IdentifyingThe first function of superlatives is to select and identify one person or thing from among a group of people or things.
Often, the superlative adjective follows the and there is a prepositional phrase or clause which indicates the group from which the person or thing is selected. For example, in the most beautiful child in the world, the child is selected from the group of all children indicated by the world.
To me he is the most beautiful child in the world.
We believe we have found the best of the progressive winemakers.
The newest weapon in the fight against drug traffickers is to attack the wealth they gain from their activities.
Details of the accident, which is the worst in the country's history, are still coming in.
The superlative adjective sometimes follows a possessive determiner instead of the. The possessive determiner indicates the group from which the person or thing is selected. For example, in my oldest daughter, the daughter is selected from all of my daughters.
My oldest daughter left home to work abroad.
During her most recent appearance the singer promised: 'I'm not going to say any more.'
The superlative adjective sometimes identifies the situation in which something is true, rather than a person or a thing. In this case, the superlative adjective is found without a determiner. For example, in hunger is most acute in the capital, in the capital indicates the situation that is selected from all other situations as the one in which hunger is most acute.
The BBC West Africa correspondent says hunger is probably most acute in the capital.
The arrival of this kind of simplicity is most apparent at the top of the market.
This arrangement is most common late in a movie's run.
Intervening in the market is most effective when you take everybody by surprise.
When the group from which the person or thing is selected is mentioned before the superlative adjective, earlier in the clause or in a previous clause, and not in a prepositional phrase or clause following the adjective, the adjective is sometimes found without a determiner.
This policy is putting the entire nuclear industry through hard times. BNFL is most bullish about staying nuclear.
The report proposes three options for a company breakup. The first option would be most effective in encouraging greater competition.
If there is no explicit mention of a group from which a person or thing is selected, the implication is that they are selected from all people or things of that type. For example, in the example below, the event is selected from all events.
They can make the most boring event appear to be one they have always wanted to attend.
Superlative adjectives with an identifying function are sometimes found in a relative clause.
Your family and friends will unconsciously encourage you to slip back into your old ways, simply because that's the person they're most comfortable around.
The governments that have begun to rely on tourism include those which previously were most dubious about this as a route to genuine development.