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It´s possible to use "much" and "quite" as adverbs of degree in front of superlative adjectives?

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  • I think that Johnnie Walker is much the best supermarket whisky. Feb 15, 2022 at 19:38
  • No: "He's quite the best climber" is wrong, but: "He's not quite the best climber" is good. The latter implies that he's still a good climber. I'm not sure how to use "much" with superlatives... I want to say it's odd
    – Riolku
    Feb 15, 2022 at 19:53
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    @Riolku - "He's quite the best climber" is perfectly acceptable, but it uses quite in its other sense of entirely, not rather. Feb 15, 2022 at 21:15
  • I think that Gilbeys is quite the best supermarket gin. Feb 15, 2022 at 21:23
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    This is a BrE / AmE difference. AmE speakers don't use quite in the way that @KateBunting has indicated. Feb 15, 2022 at 22:10

2 Answers 2

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We can, in British English, use 'much the' and 'quite the' before superlatives.

We can use 'much' before superlatives, with the meaning of 'by far'.

If something is much the best out of a group, it is not just a bit better than the others, it is very much better than any of them. If I am much the fastest in a race, I am way ahead of the pack.

much adverb by a great amount

much the best/most interesting etc British English

We can qualify 'much' with 'very' for emphasis, e.g. 'My son is very much the tallest boy in his class'.

Much (Longman Dictionary)

We can use 'quite' before superlatives, for emphasis, with the meaning 'definitely', 'undoubtedly', etc.

quite the best, worst, etc.
mainly UK
formal old-fashioned
used for emphasis:

It was quite the worst dinner I have ever had.

Quite (Cambridge Dictionary)

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To sum up the comments:

Both words can be used this way, but not in all regions (yes in British usage, no in American): "This is quite the worst day I've ever had." "This is much the best house in town."

Note that the "the" is required in this construction; you can't say "this is much best."

Note: You can use both words with non-superlative adjectives of comparison freely, in any region as far as I know, sometimes with or without "the," depending on the construction:

These pants are much the worse for wear.

I feel quite the same as I did yesterday.

He is much taller than his brother.

You can also, in any region as far as I know, use "quite" when negating superlatives:

This car is not quite the fastest.

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  • I'd like to add that in the case of "quite," the word "the" is still added after it. That is, you cannot say something is "quite fastest" or "much best." Feb 16, 2022 at 0:14
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    We can, in British English, at least, use 'much' with superlatives, with the meaning of 'by far'. Feb 16, 2022 at 8:32
  • @MichaelHarvey Wow, I didn't realize; I sincerely thought your first comment about the whisky was in jest! Edited. Feb 16, 2022 at 13:40
  • If something is 'not quite the best, fastest, most delicious, etc', at least in Bristish usage, that means it's still pretty good, fast, or delicious, but just behind whatever was judged the winner. Feb 16, 2022 at 14:34
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    @AndyBonner - I never joke about anything as serious as whisky. Feb 16, 2022 at 14:35

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