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In the below examples:

Sophie est moins sérieuse que les autres.

Sophie est la plus grande de la classe.

  • Why is the former comparative and the latter superlative? Is is related to the preposition "de" and "que"?
  • As far as I know, in superlative form there should not be a reference, am I right? If yes, why the latter has one?
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up vote 8 down vote accepted

Yes, in superlative form, there is no reference. But in your example, de la classe isn't a reference but a restriction. You can also say:

"Sophie est la plus grande."

It's still in superlative form.

  • You can spot a comparative form when the preposition que is present and introducing a reference.
  • You can spot a superlative form when an article (le, la or les) is present just before the comparison. In your example, it's la (la plus grande).

The preposition de (or others) introducing a restriction is optional and can be present in comparative form too:

"Sophie est plus grande que les autres dans ce groupe."

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