I have looked at the questions asked about this topic but I haven't found any that directly answers this question, unless I have missed it.

I would like to translate: "David? He is the most intelligent in our class."

I know the rule says: - c'est + determiner (def. article, indef. article, demonstrative adj. etc.) - il/elle est + adjective (unless we are describing someone/something in general: "un professeur, c'est intelligent)

I have a problem in applying this rule with the superlative, because a) there is a determiner, so I would be tempted to say "c'est" but b) the article is only there because of the structure of the superlative, this is essentially an adjective to a superlative degree - I see the article being a whole with the adjective", if that makes sense? So j'hésite entre les deux formes.

Which one do you think is correct?

  a) David? C'est le plus intelligent de la classe  

  b) David? Il est le plus intelligent de la classe  

  c) both

Any clarifications on the reasons why one or the other is correct would also be appreciated. I would also welcome any notes of the use/register of both if they both happened to be acceptable.

Thank you so much for your time!

1 Answer 1


The more idiomatic way to say it is :

David ? C'est le plus intelligent de la classe.

The alternative "il est le plus..." is nevertheless sometimes used and definitely understood but sounds slightly odd or too literary and is more often heard from non-native speakers.

Note that only il is possible in a comparative context like this one:

Il est plus intelligent que les autres élèves de sa classe.

  • Thank you Jilliagre- so it sounds like "le" is considered like a proper determiner here, and not as part of the adjective in the superlative degree. Which is further validated by your final example with a comparative, where the absence of a determiner forces us to use il/elle, as per rule. Jun 7, 2020 at 17:00
  • I would say le is part of the superlative but keeps its definite determiner role. Instead of "idiomatic", I might have written "mainstream". Il est le plus intelligent de la classe is rarer but no rule forbids to use it.
    – jlliagre
    Jun 7, 2020 at 21:07

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