If you need an example, you can use this one or make your own one, it doesn't matter.

A hurricane hit the Atlantic coast. Florida fared (the) worst with estimated damages of more than $50 billion.

There's no point in an article there. None! Articles are linked to a noun (apart from cases like 'the rich', 'the poor', etc. where it makes collective nouns). Is there a noun? None! And yet, there are more search results in Google News for the second option (though still only several thousand). What I want to figure out is which option complies with the grammar rules: putting the article between 'fare' and 'worst' or not doing so? Please give a satisfactory and convincing explanation if it's the former option (I see no point in using 'the', really). As I understand it, 'worst' here modifies the verb 'fare'. The part of speech that modifies verbs is the adverb. Whether superlative adverbs take 'the' or not is unclear for me. On the one hand, in the Longman dictionary, I see this. Note that it's not classified as an idiom.

You know him best – you should ask him.

(from here)

On the other hand, on the ef.com I see this:

Everyone in the race ran fast, but John ran the fastest of all.

He played the best of any player.

(from here)

Now, the question is, why the ef is it so? Is it because of 'of all' and 'of any player' respectively? But in the Longman example, 'of all' is also implied.

  • Why can't it be seen as an adverb? As in, 'He knew her best' Nov 24, 2019 at 1:42
  • Where is this sentence from? Did you write it?
    – AIQ
    Dec 2, 2019 at 23:52
  • @AIQ Yes. I added the missing 'than' if it's what you were implying Dec 3, 2019 at 1:21
  • You are right, "worst" in this case is an adverb. With an "adverb", the superlative may or may not take an indefinite article. I agree with Astralbee. "Superlatives are often used [with the obvious noun deleted]". "A complication may be thought to arise when adverbs take the same form as adjectives" and when, at the same time, the noun is dropped. For example, "Florida fared the worst [of all the states] with estimated damages of ...". See Edwin Ashworth's answer in this ELU post: Why do superlative adverbs sometimes use 'the'?.
    – AIQ
    Dec 5, 2019 at 4:03
  • @AIQ I don't like Edwin Ashworth's answer. It's not clear Dec 5, 2019 at 5:20

4 Answers 4


When you use the definite article the it should be to single something out as specific among similar peers. The car, for example, would be a specific car - perhaps your car - and it singles it out from among other cars.

When you are talking about something being the best, it is, therefore, being singled out as such from among other things.

You can say that something or someone "fares" a certain way in comparison to themselves and not others. In such a context, "the" would be redundant, for example:

Companies fare best when they have a business plan.

This is not comparing one company to another - it is saying that a company - any company - can perform better if they have a plan, than if they don't.

It is when you are comparing how something or someone fares to others that the definite article may be necessary, for example:

'Company A' fared the best out all the companies we studied because they had a business plan.

'Company A' is a *specific' company, and it is the best of a group of companies studied.

In your example then, Florida fared the worst of all the states affected by the hurricane.

There are clearly some cases where either are idiomatic, but you've asked why it would be one or the other, so I've focused my answer on that. It might be worth you running a few examples through Google Ngrams to see which are used, which are not. For example, "fared the worst" and "fared worst" have both been used pretty evenly over time; whereas "knew him best" appears to the only idiomatic option.

  • 1) Please explain the 'may be' part. 2) Are 'of all', 'of any other state/company etc.' explicitly written necessary to put 'the' before an adverb? 3) Speaking of it, is it an adverb? Dec 5, 2019 at 0:55
  • The question was: "A hurricane hit the Atlantic coast. Florida fared (the) worst with estimated damages of more than $50 billion". The point is: you cannot say "fared worst". X fared the best [of all companies] is a superlative. "X fared better than Y" is a comparative. X fared the best of all [in some situation].
    – Lambie
    Dec 5, 2019 at 1:01
  • 4) @Astralbee Also, please comment on the 'know best' sentence I included in my original post. It's certainly not "comparison to themselves" Dec 5, 2019 at 5:27
  • 1
    This is a great answer. Its well explained and useful. Why is this downvoted?
    – AIQ
    Dec 5, 2019 at 9:40
  • @AIQ Why? I see the +2 score Dec 5, 2019 at 10:22

This is a superlative adjective: the worst, the best, the funniest.

Superlatives always take the article. There is every point to an article in "Who fared the worst? To fare badly, To fare worse than some other city, to fare the worst of all the cities hit by the storm!

And with fare, one can say it's adverbial or used adverbially to modify the verb fare.

superlative adjectives

Farewell! :) [a joke, but true]

  • Please improve your answer. Why is it not an adverb as in, 'He knew her best'? Adjectives don't modify verbs, adverbs do Dec 2, 2019 at 21:44
  • Are you kidding? Are you saying that I didn't know that the superlative form of adjectives goes with 'the'? I'm arguing that adjectives don't modify verbs, adverbs do (something in my previous comment that you chose to ignore), and adverbs don't go with articles. That's also the basic fact Dec 3, 2019 at 7:28
  • Wait. Do you mean it's a complement (as in, 'John got ill')? Dec 3, 2019 at 8:41
  • 1
    You still didn't explain why it's an adjective and not an adverb. You just keep repeating it without doing any proving. By the way, when you said, "'to know best' is an idiomatic phrase. It is in dictionaries in that form", you were wrong. At least, in the Longman dictionary, it's not the case (ldoceonline.com/dictionary/best) Dec 4, 2019 at 0:24
  • What do you mean by 'it'? Dec 4, 2019 at 8:51

To me, it's a matter of using the definite article "the" with the superlative "the worst".

Tampa fared poorly in the storm, but Miami fared the worst. 
  • You have repeated my answer.
    – Lambie
    Dec 3, 2019 at 4:39

A superlative adjective always come after "the".

Noun (subject) + verb + the + superlative adjective + noun (object).

  • Bobby talks the loudest of all the boys.
  • Jill danced the best.
  • Jack’s bullfrog jumped the highest.

Check out this article for more useful information.

But with superlative adverbs, we can also choose to use 'the' or 'no article':

  • Luke reads (the) fastest.

  • I like vanilla ice cream (the) best.

  • She can speak six languages, but she speaks Spanish (the) most confidently.


- Florida fared (the) worst.

However there are other articles suggesting that sometimes we compare a person or thing in one situation with the same person or thing in a different situation. In this case, when the superlative adjective or adverb is later in the sentence, we usually don't use 'the'. Compare these two sentences:

  • I'm most productive early in the morning [I'm more productive in the morning than I am in the afternoon or the evening].

  • I'm the most productive early in the morning [I'm more productive than the other people in my office first thing in the morning].

  • What about 'best'? It goes with no 'the'. For instance, 'He couldn't decide which one he liked best' (from here: dictionary.cambridge.org/ru/…) Dec 4, 2019 at 9:33
  • check out my edit and tell me if it answers your question. It was too long to write in a comment.
    – K.Alavi
    Dec 4, 2019 at 10:26
  • What about, 'You know him best – you should ask him' (from here: ldoceonline.com/dictionary/best)? It's certainly about the fact that "he" knows "him" better than anyone else. No 'the'! Dec 4, 2019 at 10:51
  • In perfect-english-grammar.com/superlatives.html it's said that: "With superlative adverbs, we can also choose to use 'the' or 'no article'." In which case I'm supposed to say sorry for wasting so much of your time instead of finishing my research first!
    – K.Alavi
    Dec 4, 2019 at 11:27
  • This is wrong. You cannot say: X fared worst in the storm. [buzzer]. It has to be: fared the worst [of all the states,for example, in the storm].
    – Lambie
    Dec 5, 2019 at 1:05

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