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Post by Peter »

Gli avverbi della maniera – le forme superlative:
Parte Uno: Il superlativo relativo

Whereas the comparative gives the sense of more, the superlative gives the sense of most, very, extremely etc. Also, there are two different types of superlative: relative and absolute. We use the relative superlative to extend the comparison made in using the comparative, for example: fast, faster, fastest. On the other hand an absolute superlative is used to make a statement, for example that Monica looks very beautiful, without comparing her beauty to that of any other lady. The two forms are expressed in different ways in Italian. In this first Part of Lesson 10 we look at the relative superlative.

The relative superlative

As stated above the relative superlative extends the comparison made when using the comparative form. It is rendered in English either by adding –est to the stem adverb or by preceding the stem adverb with either most or least. In Italian, the most is rendered by the use of il più and the least by using il meno, both of which are followed by the stem adverb. Remember that when used with a relative superlative adverb, the definite article is invariable, whereas when used with an adjective it agrees in gender and number with the noun to which it refers.

Il più

Here are some examples of how il più is used:

Of all the girls in the choir, Maria sings the most beautifully
Di tutte le ragazze nel coro, Maria canta il più perfettamente

Amongst his circle of friends William believes in God the most passionately
Nella sua cerchia di amici, Guglielmo crede in Dio il più appassionatamente

The jaguar is the most rarely seen of the cat family
Di tutti i felini, è il giaguaro che è visto il più raramente

Another common usage of il più is in the construction ‘as … as possible’, as in the following examples:

We must go as soon as possible or else we will miss the flight
Dobbiamo andare il più presto possibile, altrimenti perderemo il volo

See also Note 1 below.

They left it as late as possible before setting out on the journey
L’hanno lasciato il più tardi possibile prima di partire sul viaggio

I drove as quickly as possible to reach the railway station in time to meet Maria
Ho guidato il più rapidamente (o velocemente) possibile per arrivare alla stazione ferroviaria in tempo per incontrare Maria

Because he realised there was not much fuel left in the tank, Giacomo drove as slowly as possible
Perché capiva che non c’era molto carburante nel serbatoio, Giacomo ha guidato il più lentamente possibile

I want to go as far away as possible
Voglio andare il più lontano possibile

We go the theatre as often as possible
Andiamo a teatro il più spesso possibile

NOTE 1: You can also use prima instead of il più presto to render the relative superlative as soon as possible, for example:

Spero di vederti il più presto possibile
Spero di vederti prima possibile

Both mean: I hope to see you as soon (or early) as possible

NOTE 2: There are other ways of expressing ‘as…as…’ One of the more common is the use of tanto…quanto, although it may not always be correct to use that phrase in the context being discussed here. It is used more to give a sense of equal quality, for example:

Luigi è tanto bravo ai linguaggi quanto mia sorella
Luigi is as good at languages as my sister

Il meno

Here are some examples of how il meno is used:

We go to Chinese restaurants the least often
Frequentiamo i ristoranti cinesi il meno spesso

Philip behaves the least strangely
Filippo si comporta il meno stranamente

Of the children, Lucy reads the least avidly
Dei ragazzi, Lucia legge il meno avidamente

On the horizon the little boats could be seen the least clearly
All’orizzonte le piccole navi potrebbero essere vedute il meno chiaramente

Structure of the relative superlative

In all the above examples, the Italian follows very much the same structure as the English. However, there are times when the structure can be very different. For example, let us take this sentence in English:

Of all the cameras this one focuses the most precisely

Now such a phrase could be translated literally as:
Di tutte le fotocamere questa mette a fuoco il più precisamente

However, it can just as easily appear as:
Di tutte le fotocamere questa è quella che mette a fuoco il più precisamente OR

Di tutte le fotocamere questa è la più precisa di mettere a fuoco

In the first of these two examples you can see that the relative superlative adverb is used, whilst in the second it is the relative superlative adjective, which agrees in gender with the feminine noun fotocamera.

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