I know a few rules when the definite article is not used with superlatives, but none fits here:

An event for best friends.

If I add "the", it sounds odd to me, as if I talked about certain people.

But what is the actual grammatical reason why "the" should not be used with the superlative here?


Because you don't have to have an explicit determiner for plural nouns. Remove the adjective:

An event for friends.

That's absolutely fine. The addition of the adjective best doesn't change anything.

An event for best friends.

There's nothing odd to see here; this is perfectly normal.

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  • Well but "best" is the superlative and those normally should include "the", right? This is what I struggle with. Or what about - "The next race will include only the fastest runners" - here I would say I do need the article. – John V Apr 17 '19 at 10:02
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    @JohnV But in that case, there is a definite set of fastest runners - hence the definite article. Best friends is a description of the relationship between two people. You could think of it as a set phrase rather than a noun and superlative, if that makes it easier. The deeper explanation is that superlatives need a determiner if they are specific (and it might be a different determiner - "the best friend" would be unusual, but "my best friend" would not), and usually they are - but not always. – SamBC Apr 17 '19 at 10:09
  • Yes, these are the rules: when combined with possessive pronouns, superlatives cannot have the definite article. Another rule is that when we speak about a different "form" of the same thing (the shadows are longest in the late afternoon ...// we do not compare different shadows but describe the same shadows under different circumstances). But with the example in my question, I could not figure it out. – John V Apr 17 '19 at 11:08
  • Consider the question that might be asked of one person to another (most typically children, I would think): I know we're friends, but are we best friends? – SamBC Apr 17 '19 at 12:09

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