Difference between WORSE and WORST

Today I’m going to teach you how to use worse and worst correctly. Even some native English speakers confuse these words!

After taking this lesson, you’ll understand the difference clearly.

worse

Worse is a comparative adjective, and we use it when we compare TWO things. For example:

  • The second book in the series was worse than the first one.
  • Killing someone is worse than stealing from them.
  • Her previous boyfriend was annoying, but her current one is worse.
  • I was already sad, and after hearing about the tragedy I felt even worse.
  • The food at this restaurant has gotten worse over the past few months.

We often use worse in these structures:

  • A is worse than B.
  • A is bad, and B is worse.
  • Something is getting worse (becoming “more bad” compared to how it was before)

We can say “even worse” to add extra emphasis to how bad the second thing is.

Here are a few additional expressions using “worse”

  • it could be worse = this situation is not so terrible
    My job is kind of boring, but it could be worse – at least I have a job!
  • be worse off = be in a worse situation
    No matter how bad things are, there’s always someone worse off than you.
  • for better or worse = whether the situation is good or bad
    We promised to stay married for better or worse.

worst

Worst is a superlative adjective, used when we compare something to MULTIPLE other things.

Let’s look at some examples:

  • He is the worst player on the team.
  • That’s the worst movie I’ve ever seen.
  • She’s the worst employee I’ve ever hired.
  • This was the worst earthquake in history.

We typically say “the worst” – don’t forget the word “the”!

It’s a common error to say things like, “He is worst player on the team” – that’s incorrect.

When talking about your experiences, it’s common to use the structure “the worst (thing) I’ve ever (verb in past participle)” – the worst movie I’ve ever seen, the worst employee I’ve ever hired.

The word worst is also used in these expressions:

  • worst of all = This is the worst thing in a series of bad things
    Our flight was delayed and our luggage was lost. Worst of all, it rained the entire time we were on vacation.
  • if worst comes to worst = if the worst situation happens
    If worst comes to worst and both of you die in an accident, who will take care of your kids?
  • want something in the worst way = REALLY want something VERY much
    My brother’s car is really old. He wants a new one in the worst way.

Pronunciation of worse and worst

What about the pronunciation of worse and worst?

Well, worse ends with a sss sound – worse – and worst ends with a st sound – worst.

However, when speaking fast, it’s common for that final “t” sound to disappear. So sometimes “worst” sounds like “worse.”

But an easy way to know when someone is saying “worse” (comparing two things) and when someone is saying “worst” (comparing one thing to multiple other things) is by considering the whole structure of the sentence:

  • If they say one thing is “worse than” another, they’re comparing two things.
  • If they say something is “the worst,” then they’re comparing one thing to all other things.

The opposite of worse is better, and I’m here to help your English get better!

You can learn more when you join one of my online courses – just click on the link in the video description for more information and free sample lessons.

At Espresso English, you can improve all your English skills – from grammar to vocabulary, speaking, listening, reading, and much more. I hope you enjoyed today’s lesson, and I hope to see you inside one of my courses.

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