Worse vs Worst

Worse vs Worst, Learn When to Use Each One Correctly

One of the most common word usage mistakes in the English language is confusing worse vs worst. Sometimes the English language can be a little confusing. Worse and worst are two words that commonly get misused. When speaking, people usually know what you mean, but in writing you want to get it right. Since most people searching for "worse or worst" are most likely trying to get it correct for something they are writing, I will explain the two words so that you are sure to use them properly. For those of you who are looking to settle an argument with a friend regarding worse or worst, you will find your answer here too.

I'm a certified English teacher. I used to teach Sophomore English before becoming a full time mom. I will explain when to use worse and when to use worst in simple to understand and easy to remember terms so that you are sure to never confuse the two again.

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Worse vs Worst, Why All the Confusion?

Why is it so hard to know which of these commonly confused words to use in a sentence? I believe understanding the proper usage of worse vs worst is such a challenge for most people simply because the two words sound so similar. Add to that the slight variations of pronunciation due to regional accents and it can be quite confusing.

Was the movie sequel worse than the original or worst? Was it the worse movie ever or the worst? Learn the grammar rules of worse vs worst and never be confused again.

Image: Free digital photos

Worse - Learn the grammar rules for the word worse

Worse is a comparative word, just like better only in the negative instead of the positive. This means when comparing two things, one will always be "worse" and not "worst" than the other.

Here are examples of the word "worse" used properly in a sentence:

  • Margaret's cooking is worse than Kim's cooking.
  • Wooden roller coasters are much worse than steel coasters.
  • Cheer is worse than Tide about getting stains out.
  • Artificial sweeteners are worse for your health than sugar.
  • I feel even worse today than I did yesterday.

Worst - Learn the grammar rules for the word worst

While worse compares two items, worst is a superlative. Think of worst like best, only in the negative. When something is much more terrible than multiple items, it is the "worst" of them all.

Here are examples of worst used correctly in a sentence:

  • That was the worst movie ever!
  • I have the worst memory when it comes to names.
  • The hottest part of the day is the worst time to do yard work in the summer months.
  • Skunks are the worst smelling animals.
  • Yuck! That's the worst restaurant in town.

Common Idioms Using Worse or Worst - Don't get these words confused

One of the most confusing aspects of American English are our many idioms and colloquial phrases. Below are common idioms and phrases that use the words worse or worst.

  • When worse comes to worst - This phrase simply means that a bad situation (one that was simply worse off than another) is now the most terrible that it could possibly be (it is now the worst). A modern take on this idiom is from bad to worse.
  • Worst case scenario - This phrase is often misspoken with the word "worse" but the correct way to say it is with "worst." The intention is you are planning for the worst possible outcome.
  • None the worse for wear - This simply means that the challenge or extra effort didn't leave the individual any worse off than they would be had they not applied themselves.
  • Their bark is worse than their bite - This idiom simply compare a person's persona (their bark) with their true character (their bite).
  • A fate worse than death - This idiom compares the awful situation with death. Since you're comparing two items you use "worse."
  • Took a turn for the worse - This is perhaps the phrase that is most often misspoken. The turn the person took was worse than their original course, therefore, you use "worse" and not "worst."

Worse vs Worst Links

Below you will find a list of links to site that also explain the rules for worse vs worst.

Grammar Books - Great grammar resources - learn more about worse vs worst

If you are a student or write for a living then grammar resource books are a must.

Since "worse" and "worst" sound so similar, it's easy to get the two confused. But once you understand that the first term is used when comparing two items whereas the second term is intended to compare three or more items, it becomes much more clear which word you need to use in a variety of situations.

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Did I Answer All of Your Worse vs Worst Questions? - Thanks for visiting 66 comments

GrowWear 5 years ago

Have seen much confusion with worse and worst. This should be a real help for folks.


anonymous 5 years ago

what about: "it wont get better before it gets worse" .is this correct??


Wendy Leanne profile image

Wendy Leanne 5 years ago from Texas Author

@anonymous: Yes, that is correct because you are using it in a comparative statement. You are saying that it is going to get worse that the current situation.


anonymous 5 years ago

I know five languages - And Tamil being my mother tongue; always wondered, which of the other four would have to considered my 'second' language! But then I love English and its idiosyncrasies too much! :)


Johanna Eisler profile image

Johanna Eisler 5 years ago

Excellent explanation. :) Three cheers for grammar lenses! (Also spelling lenses - are there any? Think I'll go check.)


anonymous 5 years ago

Hi, you have a typo:

"While worse compares wto items, worst is a superlative."

p.s. What about: Could this day get any worse? Is this correct?


Wendy Leanne profile image

Wendy Leanne 5 years ago from Texas Author

@anonymous: Hi, Katie. Thank you so much for letting me know about the typo. That was so sweet of you to take the time to tell me. I'm dyslexic and tend to miss typos like that.

"Could this day get any worse?" is in deed correct. You are asking if this day could get worse than it currently is. Therefore you are comparing two items, which would make it "worse" and not "worst." On the other hand, you would say "This day is the worst!" Because in that situation you are claiming it's the worst day ever.

Great question! Thanks for stopping by. =)


TreasuresBrenda profile image

TreasuresBrenda 5 years ago from Canada

Yikes, another English teacher...nicely done resource page.


spartakct profile image

spartakct 5 years ago

Nice lens!


anonymous 5 years ago

Ahhhh....100%!


anonymous 5 years ago

I got 100% on the quiz, but this lens would be very useful for anyone who struggles to tell the difference between these 2 words. Thanks for sharing!


anonymous 5 years ago

Nice one. Squidoo is helpful I also like http://www.squidoo.com/teach-your-children-english


WayneDave LM profile image

WayneDave LM 5 years ago

It is pretty easy really! Nice lens though, thanks for sharing.


favored profile image

favored 5 years ago from USA

Yes. It would look pretty bad if a teacher got them wrong. The quiz was a good idea. We all need to be refreshed once in a while. Here's one I am always correcting for people: a lot vs. a lot. (or allot). There have been great arguments over this one.


anonymous 4 years ago

Well, I missed one but I blame myself for not reading thoroughly. Anyway, this was a really helpful article. I've always struggled with it. Thank you for the help!


chezchazz profile image

chezchazz 4 years ago from New York

Thanks for a great lens that addresses one of the worst grammar mistakes on my pet peeves list.


anonymous 4 years ago

Thanks for sharing with us this explanation. It was just great. I will remember this lesson always ;)


anonymous 4 years ago

Thank you, this lesson was really very well explain. I will never forget the difference worse vs worst !!!


anonymous 4 years ago

This was very helpful, thank-you.


anonymous 4 years ago

good answers, but I'd like to offer my definition of Worse vs Worst;

when comparison two or several things, use Worse for two things and Worst for more than two. e.g. This is WORSE than the other. This is the WORST.


indigoj profile image

indigoj 4 years ago from UK

Good, clear explanation of worse vs. worst. I often see people getting tripped up by sound-alike or spell-alike words of this kind. Lose vs loose is another one, not to mention bear vs bare. It always makes me smile at the visual image when someone writes "bear with me" and I silently reply "no thanks, I don't know you well enough!" ;)


anonymous 4 years ago

It was great! TY


anonymous 4 years ago

I get it now...


anonymous 4 years ago

Thanks, I remembered that worst = best, but needed the refresher course on worse = better. Your lesson was concise and easy to understand. I knew it was going to be good when I saw that you were an English Teacher AND a Mom.


anonymous 4 years ago

That was great! Thx


PaulRyan 4 years ago

:) I have no problems with worse and worst, but many people do. Now I have a fun page to send them every time they make a mistake!


BestRatedStuff profile image

BestRatedStuff 4 years ago

I too had no real problem with these words, but, I did enjoy how you explained it, and it was definitely better then I could. Thanks for sharing.


anonymous 4 years ago

Very impressed; that was an excellent explanation. The examples and the questions were also quite helpful.


anonymous 4 years ago

Great! Thanks.


Virginia Allum LM profile image

Virginia Allum LM 4 years ago

Nice lens. Good resource for teachers to give students to use at home.


Ninuzza profile image

Ninuzza 4 years ago

Nice lesson--realized that even though I know better, I often say, "took a turn for the worst"! Thanks for the reminder!


anonymous 4 years ago

Yes! Thanks!


anonymous 4 years ago

Thank you, English is my second language and this was very helpful


anonymous 4 years ago

You are awesome! Thank you!


anonymous 4 years ago

You are awesome! Thank you!


anonymous 4 years ago

certainly it helps!!! thank u!!!


Aster56 profile image

Aster56 4 years ago

Good test.


anonymous 4 years ago

Crystal Clear! ^_^


anonymous 4 years ago

Awesome info and they really make sure you get the point


anonymous 4 years ago

Great Article


anonymous 4 years ago

Very helpful, thank you.


Lady Lorelei profile image

Lady Lorelei 4 years ago from Canada

I aced the quiz so I guess my worst fears were not to be realized. I do indeed know the difference between worse and worst.


ecogranny profile image

ecogranny 4 years ago from San Francisco

You have done an excellent job explaining the difference between worse and worst.


bskcom 4 years ago

Ahhh...so that's how I can e-mail my wife to tell her that her chicken casserole was worse than her pasta--which was the worst thing I ever ate. :)


Wendy Leanne profile image

Wendy Leanne 4 years ago from Texas Author

@bskcom: Ha! That might not go over well at all, but it sure would be grammatically correct! =)


Squidviews profile image

Squidviews 4 years ago

The worst one that I see all the time is people mixing up then and than, can't get worse than that. LOL

AJ


anonymous 4 years ago

Thank you for this article- very informational. Worthy to read.


siobhanryan profile image

siobhanryan 4 years ago

Blessed-unique idea for a lens


anonymous 4 years ago

yes. thanks a lot!


anonymous 4 years ago

Yes that was really clear. Thanks.


LisaAuch1 profile image

LisaAuch1 4 years ago from Scotland

cough...think I need to study a bit more !


Digory LM profile image

Digory LM 4 years ago

The stress from these squid-quizzes are the worst! Not really. Nice lens.


anonymous 3 years ago

My mom would have been the worse cook if there were only two cooks


anonymous 3 years ago

NO. MY QUESTION IS CAN THERE BE A WORST-CASE scenario. EVERY SITUATION DOES NOT CALL FOR COMPARING SOMETHING TO THE WORST CASE. IF I HAVE 500$ AND GO TO THE CASINO, LOSING

200$ WOULD BE A WORSE CASE SCENARIO THAN WINNING 100$, WHEREAS LOSING THE WHOLE 500 WOULD BE WORST CASE.


Wendy Leanne profile image

Wendy Leanne 3 years ago from Texas Author

@anonymous: No. It would always be worded worst case scenario, worse case scenario would always be awkward. If you were to compare two scenarios it would be worded "winning $100 would be worse than winning $200." Or you could say scenario A is worse than scenario B. When worse is used it must be when comparing one thing or situation to another.


Wedding Mom profile image

Wedding Mom 3 years ago

3 out of 3. Nice lens! Very informative.


suepogson profile image

suepogson 3 years ago

Very clear - thanks


WordChipper profile image

WordChipper 3 years ago

Shoot... 2/3 guess I better practise my english gooder before it gets worst. LOL


geosum profile image

geosum 3 years ago

Good one.


anonymous 3 years ago

Totally awesome... Thank you!


anonymous 3 years ago

Thanks for answering my Worse vs. Worst questions! That dang English language gets you every now and again!


marialuizapruna 3 years ago

very good lens:)


norma-holt profile image

norma-holt 2 years ago

Great leans. I needed to check on the difference between these words for something I am writing and came across this lens. Good work.


Lynn Klobuchar profile image

Lynn Klobuchar 2 years ago from Minneapolis, Minnesota

Thank you! It helps to hear someone else explain it.


Maria Antonia profile image

Maria Antonia 14 months ago from North Carolina

This was so helpful thank you. I'm a new fan.


Andrea 13 months ago

Googled Worse vs. Worst after I caught the typo in a published book and almost put the book down. After searching a dozen articles, THIS one clarified it so very well.

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