The Grammarphobia Blog

More than you know

Q: On a professional blog, I criticized someone for saying “one of the most.” Shouldn’t it be either “the most” or “one of the more”?

A: There’s nothing wrong with using “one of the” plus a superlative, as in “one of the most” or “one of the best” or “one of the worst.”

Similarly, there’s nothing wrong with using “one of the” plus a comparative, as in “one of the more” or “one of the better” or “one of the worse.”

Since the late 18th century, the convention has been to use the comparative (the intermediate degree of comparison) when two things are being compared, and the superlative (the extreme degree of comparison) for three or more.

However, the so-called “superlative of two” – as in “she’s the oldest” when there are only two people – has a long history and is common in everyday usage.

Aside from this sort of comparison, where one side of the equation consists of a single member, there are comparisons where groups are compared with groups.

For example, I might say, “That’s one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.” The meaning is that I’ve tasted many good things: some good, some better, and some best. And while this may not be THE best, it is AMONG the best.

Here’s a further example. I might say, “That’s one of the most frightening movies I’ve ever seen.” The meaning is that I’ve seen many frightening movies: some merely frightening, some more frightening, and some most frightening. And while this may not be THE most frightening, it is AMONG the most frightening.

In case you’d like to read more, I wrote a blog item last year about comparatives and superlatives.

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