How to Talk to Your Kids About Big Numbers

‘Large’, ‘greater’ and ‘biggest’ are some of the most common comparison words in English.

But is “biggest” the right word to use?

It is correct to use the word “greatest” to refer to something as the greatest scale, intensity, or size when compared to others.

The word “big” is an adjective you’ll use primarily to indicate that something is significant in size, and “biggest” is the superlative of “great.” A superlative adjective shows the highest degree of comparison.

Understanding superlatives and the meaning of essential words like “big” is critical in English.

What does “Big” mean?

The word “big” is an adjective that describes the size of something.

Adjectives are words that modify a noun or pronoun (source).

Adjectives usually add to a sentence and make the meaning clearer.

You use adjectives to describe what you are talking about.

Appearance (ugly, handsome, etc.) Personality (funny, annoying, etc.) Size (short, tall, etc.) More abstract descriptive words (important, free, etc.)

The adjective “big” is especially useful because it can have multiple meanings (source).

The word “great” can show:

What “big” means in formal writing

Let’s start by using “big” to indicate size or number.

Essentially, in most sentences you use “big” to refer to the size of something, specifically how big it is:

The example is simple: it tells the reader that Sheila literally has a big house.

The second way you can use “big” is to show something important or popular.

Take the sentence below for example:

Adele is currently one of the greatest singers in the world.

In this sentence, “big” replaces “most popular.” We know that Adele is both famous and influential as a singer.

What “big” means in casual writing

You can also use “big” informally.

Keep in mind that you’re discouraged from using “big” in these ways if you’re writing in an academic context.

In these cases, “big” can refer to age or as a way of exaggerating something:

In this sense, the word “great” creates an exaggeration.

The person the speaker met is not just a prankster.

“More big” stands in place of the comparative adjective form of big.

Since ‘big’ contains only one syllable, the comparative ends with -ger: ‘bigger’.

So instead of using ‘greater’, you should use the correct comparative form, ‘bigger’.

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Is it grammatically correct to say “biggest”?

“Largest” is the superlative of “great,” so saying “greatest” is grammatically correct. The word has multiple functions as a superlative adjective.

You would use it to describe something that is either the greatest, the greatest, or the most important.

The above example is grammatically correct as it contains all essential parts of a sentence.

The speaker uses “greatest” to compare himself to all other fans.

You can break down the adjective “great” into three basic degrees of comparison.

What does largest mean?

You should understand from the previous section that you would mainly use the adjective “big” to describe something important, mainly in stature.

So you would use “biggest” to describe something you consider to be the largest.

Again, superlatives are words you can use to compare three or more things and say something is “the most” of a certain quality or quantity.

Noon was the biggest cat I had ever seen. She had the largest swimming pool in the area.

The cat, noon, and the pool are the biggest “things” in these two examples.

There are some instances where you can use “greatest” to describe an entity or quality that is not physical, such as in the sentences below:

James has the biggest heart I’ve ever known.

While both sentences follow the typical adjective plus noun format, the nouns they contain are not physical objects.

In the first sentence you see the ‘biggest heart’. And while that could be literal if a doctor was speaking, the speaker is more likely to be using it figuratively.

A person with a big heart is generous and kind.

So someone with the “biggest” heart is an example of these qualities.

The second sentence shows the literal and figurative meaning of ‘greatest’. The Biggest Loser is a reality TV series in which obese contestants lose weight in a competition.

“Largest” refers to the contestant’s weight, or it can refer to the size of something.

Thus, the “biggest loser” is a person who loses the most weight or is a loser to the greatest degree.

When can you use ‘Largest’?

You can use “greatest” to describe an object (abstract or physical) as large or important.

Just keep in mind the grammar rules to follow when writing, because “greatest” can fit several points in a sentence.

How do you use “Largest”?

“Greatest” is a superlative adjective, meaning it modifies a noun or pronoun.

Note that sometimes there are two adjectives, so “biggest” may not come directly before the noun:

Version 4.5 was the biggest and best update yet.

However, sometimes the noun can also come before the superlative:

The chocolate is physically the largest, while the “Black Friday sales” are the largest because (we assume) they offer the best deals on the largest number of products.

So you can use the adjective “greatest” at different points in your sentence.

Using “greatest” in a complete sentence

“Greatest” cannot stand alone as a complete sentence.

Remember it’s a superlative adjective and needs a noun or noun to modify.

For example, you would usually precede the word “greatest” with “the”:

Sometimes there are other words – especially pronouns or names – that precede the largest:

In what context can you use Biggest?

You can use “greatest” in many contexts.

As we mentioned earlier, the context is generally correct as long as you use it to compare one thing with two or more other things or ideas to show that it is the most or highest degree.

When should you not use the largest?

Using “greatest” to exaggerate in a formal/educational document is often not ideal.

“Greatest” is a fairly simple word, and using it to show exaggeration doesn’t make your work seem serious or objective.

When writing, try to avoid sentences like the following:

Thomas Edison had the greatest influence on our lives today. Albert Einstein was the greatest physicist the world had ever known.

You can use “greatest” in academic contexts non-hyperbolically, such as when referring to the greatest size or quantity of something.

The largest group consisted of 27 participants. The Burj Khalifa is the tallest skyscraper in the world.

What can you use instead of “Largest”?

For example, if you use “greatest” to refer to the size of something, some useful synonyms would be “greatest,” “greatest,” or “most immense.”

The Burj Khalifa is the tallest skyscraper in the world.

You can replace ‘the largest’ with ‘the largest’. You can also replace “largest” with “widest” when referring to something large horizontally.

When using “greatest” to refer to influence, potential replacements are “most influential,” most significant, or “most popular.”

Is it correct to say “greatest most”?

As you’ve seen before, we often attach “most” to adjectives to form superlatives.

For example, the superlative of “stunning” is “most stunning.” However, we know that “greatest” is already a superlative adjective, so we create redundancy by adding “most” in front of it.

This is because “biggest” already means “biggest”.

When you say “greatest most,” you’re saying “greatest most,” which is neither technically nor grammatically correct.

Is it correct to say “Much bigger”?

So its meaning becomes “much greater”, which is also incorrect.

You can use “much more” in other sentences, but only if it precedes the positive form of an adjective.

In this case, the word “more” makes it the comparative form of the adjective.

However, you can also use “much bigger” to exaggerate or emphasize the size of something.

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The superlative of one-syllable adjectives

In general, to make the superlative of a simple (one-syllable) adjective, take the base form and add -est.

Take, for example, the word “great.” If we just add “-est” to “big”, it becomes “bigest”. And as you can see, that doesn’t look good – we’re missing a second “g”.

This is due to the nature of consonants and vowels.

Vowels are the sounds “a, e, i, o and u”, while consonants are all other sounds.

You only double the last letter if the noun ends in a consonant plus vowel plus consonant.

So in the case of ‘big’, you will see the pattern below:

When making “great” a superlative, double the last letter before adding -est.

So the superlative of “great” is actually “greatest.”

If a noun ends in a vowel (or “y” or “w”), don’t repeat the letter or replace it with an “i”. Here are two examples:

Finally, if a noun ends in a vowel-consonant-consonant or vowel-vowel-consonant format, it will still end with the conventional -est in its superlative.

That’s exactly why we need the superlative.

And one of the most convenient and common superlatives is the word “greatest.”

“Largest” is the proper way to refer to the largest of three or more things.

So whether you’re talking about height, breadth, width, length, or volume, it’s always a good idea to keep “largest” in mind.

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