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Use of the superlative when only two items are present

When choosing between two items, I've always been told it's incorrect to say one is "the best". Rather, you should say one is "the better" of the two.

First, is this correct?

Second, if this is correct wouldn't it be inconsistent to say one is "the worst" of the two? What should you say instead?

  • @RegDwight - The question is related, yes (and I wish I'd seen that one), but my followup question is different. That said, fair enough if others agree it should be closed.
    – Damovisa
    Commented May 31, 2011 at 10:52

1 Answer 1


It is customary to refer to "the better" of two choices. To invert the meaning in a comparative statement, it would be better to refer to "the worse" of the two options.

Note that when there are only two options, the "better" of the two is also the "best"; there is nothing preventing you from emphasizing something's goodness or badness by using the superlative form even in a comparative context.

If I can only have red or green, I believe green is the best choice.

Nitpickers and schoolteachers may hound you for that, but pay them no mind.

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