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Worse vs Worst

Updated on June 17, 2014

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.

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

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    • profile image

      GrowWear 5 years ago

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

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

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

    • Wendy Leanne profile image
      Author

      Wendy Leanne 5 years ago from Texas

      @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.

    • profile image

      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.)

    • profile image

      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
      Author

      Wendy Leanne 5 years ago from Texas

      @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

      Treasures By Brenda 5 years ago from Canada

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

    • spartakct profile image

      spartakct 5 years ago

      Nice lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Ahhhh....100%!

    • profile image

      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

      Fay 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.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 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

      Chazz 5 years ago from New York

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

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

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

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

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

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      This was very helpful, thank-you.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 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

      Indigo Janson 5 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!" ;)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      It was great! TY

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 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.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      That was great! Thx

    • profile image

      PaulRyan 5 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 5 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.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

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

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great! Thanks.

    • Virginia Allum LM profile image

      Virginia Allum LM 5 years ago

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

    • Ninuzza profile image

      Ninuzza 5 years ago

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

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Yes! Thanks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

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

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      You are awesome! Thank you!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      You are awesome! Thank you!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      certainly it helps!!! thank u!!!

    • Aster56 profile image

      Aster56 5 years ago

      Good test.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Crystal Clear! ^_^

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Awesome info and they really make sure you get the point

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great Article

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Very helpful, thank you.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 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

      Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

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

    • profile image

      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
      Author

      Wendy Leanne 4 years ago from Texas

      @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

    • profile image

      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

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      yes. thanks a lot!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Yes that was really clear. Thanks.

    • LisaAuch1 profile image

      Lisa Auch 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.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

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

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 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
      Author

      Wendy Leanne 4 years ago from Texas

      @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 4 years ago

      3 out of 3. Nice lens! Very informative.

    • suepogson profile image

      suepogson 4 years ago

      Very clear - thanks

    • WordChipper profile image

      WordChipper 4 years ago

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

    • geosum profile image

      geosum 4 years ago

      Good one.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Totally awesome... Thank you!

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

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

    • profile image

      marialuizapruna 3 years ago

      very good lens:)

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 3 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 3 years ago from Minneapolis, Minnesota

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

    • Maria Antonia profile image

      Maria Antonia 21 months ago from North Carolina

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

    • profile image

      Andrea 19 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.

    • GalaxyRat profile image

      GalaxyRat 6 weeks ago from The Crazy Rat Lady's House

      Worst and worse sound and look strange when you think about it. :D

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