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An adverb, not an adjective, must be used to modify an adjective. So why does the expression “the absolute best…” sound correct and “the absolutely best…” sound not just pedantic but wrong? Is “the absolute (your superlative here)…” construction an established idiom, or is it that this “incorrect” construction is so pervasive that it sounds correct (which, I suppose, is how idioms become idioms). To use the comparative, “the absolute better choice…” sounds correct to me, while “the absolutely better choice…” sounds incorrect. Yet, if “the” and “absolute” switch places in both “incorrect” expressions, “absolute the best” and “absolute the better choice” are absolutely incorrect, and “absolutely the best” and “absolutely the better choice” are absolutely correct. So why does “the absolute best choice…” sound correct? Is something wrong with my inner ear? Has my sprachgefühl slipped a crucial sprachet?
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Hi, welcome to the forum. Emotion: smile

Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, adverbs, sentences...
Adjectives modify nouns...

It seems to me that in "the absolute best", "best" is a noun. So there are no exceptions...
Well, an exception I can think of is "Listen to me good", where "good" is used as an adverb even though it is usually just considered an adjective. Emotion: smile
Thanks for weighing in. I agree that in "the absolute best" "best" is a noun, but if you tacked on a noun ("the absolute best movie") then "best" becomes an adjective modified by another adjective, unless you are thinking of "best movie" as a phrasal noun, as in "Oh, don't you think it's just the absolute "Best Movie" of all time?" Here there can be no argument over "absolute" being correct.
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DM, your reasoning is so lucid that even I understand it.Emotion: smile English is the promised language of exceptions and I think you have just added one to the list.

CB
An adverb, not an adjective, must be used to modify an adjective. So why does the expression “the absolute best…” sound correct and “the absolutely best…” sound not just pedantic but wrong? My impression is the reverse. Is “the absolute (your superlative here)…” construction an established idiom Not that I know of. , or is it that this “incorrect” construction is so pervasive that it sounds correct (which, I suppose, is how idioms become idioms). To use the comparative, “the absolute better choice…” sounds correct to me, while “the absolutely better choice…” sounds incorrect. My impression is the reverse. Yet, if “the” and “absolute” switch places in both “incorrect” expressions, “absolute the best” and “absolute the better choice” are absolutely incorrect, and “absolutely the best” and “absolutely the better choice” are absolutely correct. So why does “the absolute best choice…” sound correct? Is something wrong with my inner ear? Purely from my viewpoint, I'm afraid so. Has my sprachgefühl slipped a crucial sprachet? Again, purely from my viewpoint, it does seem so. Emotion: smile

CJ
A Google search of "the absolute best…" and "the absolute worst…" certainly shows their use to be pervasive. So much so that I believe a poll would show their use to be far more pervasive than "the absolutely best…" and "the absolutely worst…." Does this make the former right? Actually, if their use is pervasive enough, yes. And if their use, howsoever in violation of the rules or sense, is widespread they are, ipso facto, accepted idiom, just as "I could care less" has come to mean "I couldn't care less."

One thing that may have contributed to this use is that in their absolute form ("That is the absolute best!" "That is the absolute worst!") in which the nouns that "best" and "worst" refer to are implied but not stated, the use of the adjective "absolute" is correct since it is modifying a noun ("the best" "the worst"). It is easy to see how, when a noun is added, turning "best" or "worst" into an adjective, thus calling for the adverb "absolutely," the "absolute" form is retained ("the absolute best analysis I can muster").

CalifDave

Where will this thread go from here? Beats me! It's the absolute

CalifHanger
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Well, I just tried one of my usual searches with Google...
A restricted search shows that "the absolute best" is much, much more common than "the absolutely best". So common that "the absolutely best" must sound odd... but Jim said it sounds fine to him, so the answer is... go figure! Emotion: wink
KooyeenWell, I just tried one of my usual searches with Google...
A restricted search shows that "the absolute best" is much, much more common than "the absolutely best". So common that "the absolutely best" must sound odd... but Jim said it sounds fine to him, so the answer is... go figure! Emotion: wink
To my ear, "the absolutely best" sounds odd because the word order is wrong. I usually hear people say things such as "It's absolutely the best that money can buy." or "It's the absolute best that money can buy."

But, if I add a noun after "the absolutely best", then it doesn't sound particularly unusual.