Should I use most simple or simplest to indicate something cannot be more simple?

Can I use both? Is one prefered?

If simplest - how is that pronounced? (Is the e silent?)

3 Answers 3


Both are somewhat correct, but it's better to use simplest. This is called the superlative in grammar. It can be used by either adding the word "most" before the adjective, or by modifying the adjective with the suffix "-est". If you care about the rules, here is a quote from oxforddictionaries.com:

The superlative is formed in different ways according to the length of the base adjective. If it has one syllable, then the letters -est are added. If the word has three syllables or more then the word most is placed before the adjective: most attractive. Words of two syllables vary: some add -est and some use most. Some even do either, for example clever. Spelling: adding -est If the word ends in a consonant, add -est (quick becomes quickest). Words of one syllable with a short vowel sound and ending with a single consonant, double the consonant and add -est (sad becomes saddest). With words of one syllable ending in ‘l’, you normally do not double the ‘l’, but cruel becomes cruellest. If it ends in ‘e’, add -st (late becomes latest). If it ends in ‘y’, change the ‘y’ to an ‘i’ and add -est (happy becomes happiest).

emphasis mine. Also, if you look it up in the dictionary (e.g. here), you will see "simple - simpler - simplest".

More than that, Simplest is also used more often that "most simple", you can see a clear tendency at this ngram (Sorry, it's small when added here as a picture. The blue line is "simplest", and the red line is "most simple"):

enter image description here

It is pronounced as \ˈsim-p(ə-)ləst\, so you can pronounce it either with 3 syllables, or just 2 if you omit the first ə.

  • I think SingerOfTheFall's last sentence may be technically right, though I do believe I've heard "sim-plest" (two syllables) much more often than "sim-ple-lest" (three syllables).
    – TOOGAM
    Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 1:47

'Simplest' is correct, but I think 'most simple' has come into use because of similar pronunciation concerns as yours. Neither are incorrect. 'Most simple' is less simple, so I prefer 'simplest'.

It is pronounced sim plest (sɪmplɪst).


Beginning a statement with "The most simple ...", might be a more appropriate usage for purposes of giving emphasis to "most", over burying it at the end, within "-est".

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