31.5.1 Use of the superlative

Concerning the superlative it is to be distinguished between the use as predicative or adverb on the one hand side and attributive adjective on the other hand side.

Use as predicative adjective  
Er ist am stärksten.
= He is the strongest.  
Use as adverb  
Er läuft am schnellsten von allen.
= He runs the fastest of all.  
Use as attributive adjective  
Das schönste Gedicht war das von Rilke.
= The most beautiful poem was by Rilke.  
Sie ist die schönste Frau der ganzen Stadt.
= She is the most beautiful woman of the whole town.  

If we have a look with some concentration we will find a difference. When using the superlative as predicative adjective (put behind the object it describes) the preposition am is used and an 'n' is added to the superlative form.

Er ist am stärksten.

In other words one can say: If there is no article or possessive pronoun before the superlative the construction to be used is am + adjective+ -sten.

Am + adjective + -sten  
Er ist am stärksten.
= He is the strongest  
Er ist der Stärkste.
= He is the strongest.  

In English there is no difference between a predicative adjective and a substantivated adjective. In German it is the use of preposition am or the definite article der/die/das.

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