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I'm wondering whether English has something beyond its superlative degree. In my language we call that "túlzófok", it literally translates to "exaggerative degree."

I'm wondering because I often hear and read phrases where the much more is used before the comparative, e.g.

much more stronger

but this is grammatically incorrect. Still, whenever I hear or read something like this, I can't help but think of our "túlzófók" and how people who use a phrase like this may have a similar intention, they may want to exaggerate. I don't know however if that's the case or if it's just something some people do as a habit and without any particular reason.

So, does English have an actual, non-arbitrary way of exaggerating adjectives in a way which is comparable to the superlative, or if it doesn't, has it ever had anything similar?

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  • Simple answer: No, there is not. Your first question differs from your last one.
    – Lambie
    Mar 20 '17 at 18:53
  • 2
    Sounds like you're fishing for positive, comparative, superlative ... hyperbolic?
    – Robusto
    Mar 20 '17 at 21:03
  • Welsh has a fourth degree, but it is an equative, not a super-superlative
    – Colin Fine
    Mar 15 at 21:49
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I found this pretty self-explanatory example of a "whimsical" usage that would be comprehensible to most native speakers even if they'd never come across it before...

“Wanna go get some ice cream? I'm buying!” asks Jazmun.
“Sure.”
“You know what?” asks Jazmun.
“What?”
“You are my best...no, my bestest friend.”
“You are mine, too, little sis.”

...where even though everyone knows bestest isn't really a "valid" English word, it's perfectly acceptable in an informal context to use it to mean better than best.


I'll also just flag up these several hundred written instances of more betterer - though as pointed out here, that's more "dialectal" than "whimsically emphatic".

But neither of my examples (or any others, so far as I know) are valid in "standard, formal" English. To be strictly correct, Jazum would have needed to use a separate intensifier, such as very best friend.

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  • "Very best friend" has a different meaning, I think, from that intended in the question, as "very" indicates a high level of confidence or certainty, but not the degree to which the friend is a good one. Compare, "I certainly have no better friend than you", with "I have no other friend nearly as good as you".
    – epl
    Mar 15 at 23:06
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What I've found, not in English but in Hungarian, is that English normally expresses this idea by using a combination of an adverb or phrase with the superlative, e.g.:

the very best
by far the best
the best of all
the best (strong emphasis on the "the")

English doesn't have an "exaggerative degree" per se but it can express the idea.

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  • The best is still the superlative. These are modifiers but they are not related to the degrees. The very best intensifies (modifies) best but is not a "fourth" level.
    – Lambie
    Mar 20 '17 at 18:54
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    Funny, I can't think of any word in English that says definitively "I'm exaggerating", so it's impossible to know if someone is serious or not. "This is the best hamburger in the world" for example -- it might be, at least in my opinion. There's no cue that says, "no, not really, I'm just lying for effect."
    – Andrew
    Mar 20 '17 at 19:02
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Explanation

The superlative construction by definition indicates some instance is not exceeded by any other. In this sense, the particular idea of an instance beyond it is absurd or incoherent. English grammar strictly follows this logical precept. Constructions like "bestest" and "most greatest", which are sometimes used in a vernacular, but usually for humor rather than ordinary communication, are not accepted in the standard grammar.

In many cases, a speaker or writer will notice a substantial difference between the instance marked by the superlative construction and the next greatest instance, and may indicate this difference by inserting an adverbial modifier on the superlative adjective.

The comparative adjective may also be modified by adverbs, including "much".

It would appear that English grammar lacks a construction strictly analogous to the one mentioned. Authors generally would appeal to an explicit explanation, for a similar effect. Use of an adverb such as "supremely" is probably the closest direct approximation.

Examples

  • Budapest is overwhelmingly the largest city in Hungary.

  • It is the best known by far internationally, as well.

  • It is certainly much more populous than Debrecan.

  • In fact, few foreigners can even name another Hungarian city.

  • Yet, many know of the supremely iconic site in Budapest called Heroes' Square.

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  • Great answer! And welcome back!
    – Eddie Kal
    Mar 15 at 18:20

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