I wonder if there is a steadfast rule for when to use in and when to use of with superlative forms:

I'm so happy. This is the best day of my life.

This is the worst depression in US history.

The best coffee house in the country.

English Usage has the same question, but people seem to differ and answers are probably subjective.

1 Answer 1


Of is used where it indicates an element of a set, whereas in might be used more often where the set is less clear, or is treated as a continuum... but this doesn't seem to be a "hard and fast" rule.

Set of all Aroma cafes:

The Aroma coffee shop in Lod is the best of them all.

Continuum of the whole country:

The Aroma coffee shop in Lod is the best in the country.

And yet, in the following two sentences, the prepositions seem interchangeable.

1947 was the best year of the last century in India.

1947 was the best year in the last century in India.

If there is any small, subtle difference in connotation, it might be that of draws attention to the year being in a particular century, and in includes both country and time, more of a continuum... and perhaps I'm looking for a difference that is not there. sigh


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