I found a lot of newspapers use "the most strange" instead of strangest. Why is that? Is it an option to use "the most" instead of the superlative form "est"?

BBC: Elizabeth Jane Howard discusses Falling, one of her most strange and dark novels.

The Economist: From mainly secular UK what we find most strange about the US of A is their religion and obsession with contraception and abortion

  • 2
    Neither example uses "the".
    – user99562
    Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 7:59
  • 2
    Most can also mean "very"
    – user99562
    Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 8:05

2 Answers 2


The adjectives strange and dark describe the novel, they are used as a single unit, so it is fairly common to use “most” when one or both adjectives have a single syllable or the second adjective ends with a y. For example,

  1. The week ended with a dance where both students and teachers vied for the most weird and funny costumes. [source]
    ALSO “…the weirdest and funniest costumes” and “…the most weird and funniest costumes”

However, if the noun is singular and is identifiable by two joined qualities then "most" is nearly always preferable, for example

  1. A hurried climb, a most warm and loud welcome, and since there was no time to stop for a meal they stuffed my pockets with candy.
    BUT “…a warmest and loudest welcome” would not be appropriate.

Further examples:

  1. This is what the artist calls glazing, and can only be got by practice; only the most warm and transparent colors are used for the purpose.
    ALSO “the warmest and most transparent colors”

  2. Late July was one of the most hot and humid months in New England.
    ALSO “the hottest and most humid”

  3. He has been a most kind and tender friend to Arjun.
    NOT “… a kindest and most tender friend”

  4. Grant me, most sweet and loving Jesus, to rest in Thee above every creature, above all health and beauty, above all glory and honour, … [source]

  5. They have that most strange and dangerous of qualities [source]

As @user47014 in the comments correctly pointed out, most also means very hence “what we find most (= very) strange about the US of A is…”


  1. Extremely; very.

‘it was most kind of you’
‘that is most probably correct’


Yes, it is an option to write it that way.

As a general rule, the -est suffix forms the superlative degree of adjectives and adverbs:

Strangest = the most strange
Oddest = the most odd
Darkest = the most dark

There is no rule as to which you should use - it is a style choice. You are not obliged to use a superlative, although some are far more natural than others ("darkest" would almost always be used) and some words do not have a superlative (for example "the most dangerous" is not "dangerousest" - there is no such word).

My only thought as to why the choice might have been made in your first example is because the writer might have found it odd to use two superlatives int he same breath by saying "the strangest and the darkest".

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