Which is correct?

The Chrysler building was the highest building in the world. Today, it is the seventh highest building in the USA.


The Chrysler building was the highest building of the world. Today, it is the seventh highest building of the USA.


5 Answers 5


Definitely go with "in the world". I don't recall ever hearing "highest building of the world". Google Ngram confirms that "highest building in the world" is the most commonly used phrase, by far.

However, I think it would be even better to say "tallest building in the world". This would be my personal choice and Google Ngram confirms that the use of "tallest" in this phrase has outstripped the use of "highest" since, approximately, 1917.

Google Ngram: highest building in the world vs. highest building of the world Google Ngram: tallest building in the world vs. highest building in the world

  • Yes, but would it be wrong to use either?
    – badp
    Nov 27, 2011 at 18:46
  • 7
    @badp: There are different kinds of wrongness. Something that is grammatical, but never said by a native speaker, is "wrong" by certain definitions. Nov 27, 2011 at 19:13
  • +1 to this answer and to @Mr.ShinyandNew安宇. There's a difference between being grammatically correct and being idiomatic; saying "of the word" will likely sound strange to a native speaker, though there's nothing grammatically wrong with it. Nov 27, 2011 at 20:32
  • 8
    Something to keep in mind is that tall refers to the distance from the top to the bottom of something, whereas high refers to the distance from some fixed ground level up to the object. Hence Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world, but some shanty on Mt. Everest would be the highest.
    – Daniel
    Nov 28, 2011 at 1:06
  • @Daniel There are over 600 000 hits in a Google search for "highest building in"; I've checked the first ten only, and while the articles look respectable, they all use 'highest' in the 'tallest' sense. Mar 31, 2023 at 11:30

I would use only the version with in. That with of sounds awkward and suggests that the world or the country has some nontrivial connection with the building.

Note however that we speak of the Seven Wonders of the World because these wonders are representative of the world.


Both are grammatical. However, in is a lot more common, especially with words denoting places.


As presented in "English Grammar in Use Intermediate", after superlatives we use "in" with places (towns, buildings, etc.) and organizations or groups of people (a class, a team, etc.).

For example :

  • What is the longest river in the world?

  • It is the nicest room in the hotel.

  • Who is the best student in the class?

but Of the three, Nam is the best.

We normally use "of " for a period of time:

E.g. Yesterday was the hottest day of the year.

  • 2
    Actually, I'd argue that "on" is more common with the word "team", rather than "in". Nov 27, 2011 at 20:33
  • @ Adam Robinson: Can you give an example of superlative in a sentence with "on the team". I find that the phrase 'on the team' popular but 'in the team' is also used. Rather confusing. Can you help me?
    – thanh tran
    Nov 29, 2011 at 9:40
  • "He was the most valuable player on the team." I don't believe I've ever heard "in the team" used by a native speaker. Nov 29, 2011 at 13:11
  • "In the team" isn't American English, but it may be idiomatic in some other variety, and English Grammar in Use is originally a British English text.
    – user21497
    Apr 23, 2013 at 11:04

There can be an explanation for usage (the tallest building in the world). Usage is not an explanation in itself!

The Chrysler building was the tallest building (of all the buildings that existed) in the world. Today, it is the seventh tallest building (of all the buildings that exist) in the USA.

He was the most valuable player (of all the players who were) on the team.

Superlatives are made with 'of', definitely, but the part that contains this preposition is understood in the sentences above! That is why one might be under the mistaken impression that superlatives can sometimes be made with 'in' or 'on' instead of 'of'.

I say... whenever you want an explanation other than 'that's usage', ask... a non-native speaker of English!

We, learners of English, have trouble with what you, dudes and gals, say... because of what you do not say!

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