Uncountable nouns are usually used without an article. Superlatives require definite article. What comes out of these 2 rules when superlative meets uncountable article?

We need an example, I hope it is good:

This lake has clear water.

This lake has clearest water.

This lake has the clearest water.

When I searched the web I found both "clearest water" and "the clearest water".

I read on this site, that in informal speech the is frequently omitted, so let's concentrate on formal speech or writing. If there is Am/Br specific it would also be interesting. Please comment on the examples and in general. Thanks.

  • 2
    Lose #2. I can't think of any context where that wording would sound natural. The other two are fine; Barrie's done a good job of explaining #3.
    – J.R.
    Aug 28, 2012 at 9:48
  • 1
    When you searched the web and found "clearest water", what was the context? Please give examples of what you found. Show the results of your research.
    – MetaEd
    Aug 28, 2012 at 14:26

3 Answers 3


Superlatives describe a particular quality to the highest degree when compared to the same quality found elsewhere. So, we might say The water in the other two lakes is really quite clear, but I’d say this lake has the clearest water.

However, the superlative can also describe an absolute, with something like the sense of very. So we might also say Oh, look at that lake. Did you ever see anything like it? It has the clearest water.

In normal use, the definite article is part of the superlative form.

  • The last sentence makes it complete answer :)
    – Jarek
    Aug 28, 2012 at 9:54
  • @Barrie: There is at least one counter-example - as you qualify though, it is therefore hardly normal usage. Best practice has become so fixed an expression that it doesn't take an article (except when used as a count noun; Wikipedia defines a best practice). Aug 28, 2012 at 22:54

Uncountable nouns in English do not use an indefinite article. Definite articles are commonly used with uncountable nouns. Superlatives also don't use an indefinite article. I think your source of information did not clarify this, which resulted in your question.

  • Also, if you substitute 'fish' for 'water', the same rules will apply. Though you might want to change you adjective to 'big'.
    – Mike
    Aug 28, 2012 at 12:19
  • Good point, Mike. After correcting my approach to uncountable nouns and the articles, the answer becomes obvious. And I learnt even more than I expected.
    – Jarek
    Aug 28, 2012 at 13:23

One has to be very careful when using results from a simple web search. I tried the parameters "clearest water" -"the clearest water" and found, in the first 20 hits on Google:

false results:

Which place in the Caribbean do you think has the Prettiest and Clearest Water ?

Home Med's clearest water

captions (condensed formatting) , including:

Clearest water in Door County Wi, Lake Michigan side

Clearest Water

Favourite / best beaches for / to clearest water / ...

Waffle sandwich; Almost Swimming Season; Clearest Water in New Zealand; Queen Charlotte Cove; Shout Out to Brooklyn

'web formatting' (condensed formatting) , including:

B&Bs/beach w/clearest water/other

informal wordings (condensed and not accepted grammar):

Clearest Water ive ever had in my tank! - YouTube

I we're going to concentrate on formal speech or writing, we can't cite raw web data as evidence of usage.

  • So in captions you are allowed to omit the?
    – Jarek
    Aug 28, 2012 at 9:53
  • 1
    @Jarek Yes. Much like tweets today, captions, headlines, telegrams (if you're old enough to remember telegrams) and other such texts where there is limited space or a cost for exceeding a certain letter or word count are often highly elliptical. Aug 28, 2012 at 11:49
  • @Jarek, StoneyB's comment is spot on. The word "the" seems to be implied (an unwritten ellipsis) in a caption like "Clearest Water I've ever had..."
    – TecBrat
    Aug 28, 2012 at 12:51

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