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What is the exact rule of using the definite article with superlative adverbs?
Had asked this question on the English language and usage site also, but no exact answer was given.

For example:

"She ran fastest".
"She ran the fastest"

Which one is correct, and as per what rule?

Is using the definite article with superlative adverbs mandatory, optional or not required at all?
Please give definite a answer.

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Superlatives require the definite article when they refer to a single item eg:

  • The fastest car.
  • The tallest building.
  • The highest mountain.

In your example of a runner, you do not necessarily need the definite article if the superlative is modifying the verb only, for example:

  • Jane ran fast
  • David ran faster
  • John ran fastest

However, you do need the definite article if the superlative refers to the subject (the runner):

  • Jane was fast
  • David was faster
  • John was the fastest.

Why? Because he was the fastest runner.

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