I used the book "Grammar and Style" and one example confused me:

He was the better/ best of two players.

The answer was the better but learners wonder how is it true since we use best after the definite article, the.

Was the answer given above correct?

  • 1
    We might use the best but we also use the better. The better of the two strikers is injured. – AmE speaker Sep 23 '18 at 6:38

It is true that a superlative, when it pre-modifies a noun attributively, is usually preceded by the definite article, as in He was the best player in the team. It is also true that the comparative is often preceded by the indefinite article, as in He was a better player after he had extra coaching. But where one player is being compared with another, the definite article is required, as in He was the better of the two players. You cannot say that one player is the best when only two are being compared.

  • "The best of two players" or "The best of two choices" are wrong? How about three? – Zebrafish Sep 22 '18 at 10:59
  • -1 too pedantic and not indicative of how language is used, i.e, May the best man win said to the two boxers before they fight. – AmE speaker Sep 23 '18 at 6:37

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