I have found the expression “the biggest such business” in the second sentence in The Economist.

It has also made it easier for people to find the ingredients, kit and talent necessary to cook them up illegally. For years the biggest such business was making stimulants such as amphetamines and methamphetamines, which are also produced in neighbouring countries (see article).

The Economist

So I tried to find out in what order to use ”such“ and ”a superlative.“ and I have finally found the following.

You can't follow "such" with a superlative.

Word Reference

Does this mean "such the biggest business" is incorrect?

Both statements are confusing. Which is a grammatically correct expression?

  • 1
    It's probably possible to contrive a peculiar context where the text sequence such the biggest business would be credible, but for any "normal" context (i.e. - as a noun phrase) it's syntactic garbage . – FumbleFingers Jan 8 at 13:24
  • Nice to hear from you. I remember you answered my questions before. Would you please explain what you mean by saying it's syntactic garbage more specically? Because such an expression as "the biggest such business" sounds very strange or unfamiliar to me. – Suwon Kim Jan 8 at 13:50
  • 2
    There are businesses that produce illegal drugs. Such businesses are breaking the law (alternatively, as a singular usage, Such a business would be / is breaking the law). Are you okay with those? It might help to think of those highlighted noun phrases as equivalent to businesses / a business that are / is producing illegal drugs. Assuming there is more than one such business / business of that type, it must be the case that one of them is larger than all others - which could be referenced as the biggest such business. If that helps! :) – FumbleFingers Jan 8 at 14:09
  • ...I wouldn't like to be pinned down as regards how acceptable it is to introduce an indefinite article into such phrases when used in "singular" mode. The biggest such a business is XYZ seems at least "plausible" to me - we wouldn't normally include that article, but I kinda doubt there's anything remotely akin to a "grammatical rule" saying it's syntactically invalid to include it. – FumbleFingers Jan 8 at 14:16
  • Thank you! Then, is it possible to say such an expression as "such the biggest business" in English depending on circumstances? – Suwon Kim Jan 8 at 14:24

In answer to the headline question: yes, it's grammatically correct.


You're confusing two different uses of such. There's a good summary of usage here:

  • such (Collins English Dictionary):

The very first definition for the word (scroll down on that page) is also the meaning used by The Economist in the original post.

  1. a. of the sort specified or understood (such books shouldn't be sold here)

In this use, such is not forming a superlative, but acting as a determiner: here, it states that the noun it attaches to ("businesses") is the same one that was already discussed in a previous sentence.

Placing the adjective

There's no special rule for placing an adjective near "such". If in doubt, replace it with "of this kind of", and place the adjective using that structure instead.

  • the biggest such business
  • the biggest of this kind of business

such ... that for superlatives

What you uncovered was the rule for creating superlatives using "such", but in this case, the phrase that "such" precedes is always followed by 'that', as in the two same-meaning sentences below:

  • It was such hard work that we were sore for days afterwards.
  • The work was very hard, and as a result we were sore for days afterwards.
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  • Thank you. If there is no special rule for placing an adjective near "such", is it possible to say such the biggest business? – Suwon Kim Jan 8 at 13:40
  • You'd have to say "The biggest business of this kind...". Otherwise it's not clear what "business" you're talking about. That's the job that "such" is doing in the quoted text. – KrisW Jan 8 at 13:43
  • Then, is it possible to say such an expression as "such the biggest business" in English in other circumstances? – Suwon Kim Jan 8 at 13:45
  • 2
    "such the biggest business" is not grammatically correct, so no. – KrisW Jan 8 at 14:00
  • 1
    I'm happier with 'the biggest such business' = 'the biggest example of this kind of business'. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 8 at 19:48

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