I always forget that "elative" is no grammar term in English.

In Latin grammars (at least in German ones) "Elativ" is a superlative form that is not translated as superlative but with "very/highly", expressing a high degree but not the absolutely highest degree.

What is the English term for an expression such as: - a most interesting novel

  • 2
    This is also called elative in English.
    – Alex B.
    Jul 10, 2012 at 14:10
  • 1
    By a few people, perhaps. Most educated English speakers wouldn't understand the term, and would probably also be pretty unclear about positive, comparative, and superlative. Jul 10, 2012 at 15:34
  • @JohnLawler, of course! Just like most educated German speakers wouldn't understand the word "Elativ".
    – Alex B.
    Jul 10, 2012 at 19:13
  • @rhuffstedtler, "elative" is pretty common in linguistic typology. References? How about this one books.google.com/…?
    – Alex B.
    Jul 10, 2012 at 19:15
  • @Alex B- just as an interesting note, the table 6-1 on page 109 of your reference is missing the opposite of Excessive which I might call "Insufficient"- i.e., David is not smart enough.
    – Jim
    Jul 10, 2012 at 19:45

1 Answer 1


I have typically seen "most" in your example labeled as an intensifier in English grammar. It's functioning as a grammatical expletive rather than as a true superlative.

Alex B. - do you have a reference for that being called an elative in English? I was not able to find one.

  • 1
    You comment to Alex should be a comment in the main item, not in your answer.
    – Mitch
    Jul 10, 2012 at 15:58

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