Learn English – Superlative and definite article “the”


I have seen similar questions like this here on ELU. However, I am still confused with my particular question.

(a) She gets up latest in her family.
(b) She gets up the latest in her family.

Can one omit the definite article "the" in the second sentence?

There is a similar English Language & Usage question with an answer that says, “An article is only necessary in the superlative (or comparative) if the adjective is attributive (i.e. is in the same phrase as the noun it is describing)” .

Is the adjective in my above sentences attributive?

Best Answer

Neither sentence is a natural English sentence. Teachers like to make multiple choice questions and create artificial sentences, and there is a danger that they are not actually things any one would ever say, but really it is a matter of the context. Any technically grammatical sentence, as both of these are, could be valid in an appropriate context.

If the teacher is not a native speaker of English, the made up sentences are more likely to be spurious, and often are not grammatical even in the so-called "correct" case.

The difference between these two sentences is very slight and subtle, and if I was forced to choose I would choose the version without "the", but if I dropped the "in the family", I would reverse this preference because there is no longer a comparison set, so a unique person in the universe is being identified!! There is nobody in the universe that gets up later - and even for our planet, with our various timezones, this doesn't really make any sense.