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I came across the following sentence:

Mündliche Prüfungen gehören zu den am meisten gefürchteten.

Since the Partizip 2 of the verb "fürchten" is used here as an adjective "gefürchtet", why wasn't the superlative of "gefürchtet" used?

Mündliche Prüfungen gehören zu den gefürchtetsten.

Don't know if I'm the only one, but I find "gefürchtetsten" quite difficult to pronounce; is that maybe the reason why "am meisten" was used?

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  • I haven't researched this, so I'll leave this up to discussion. But there are a lot of English influences in the German language, so this could simply be an adaptation from the English superlative, where long words get compared with more and most Aug 9, 2022 at 7:04
  • @infinitezero It could in fact be an Anglicism - There is, however, an interpretation where it isn't (see my answer)
    – tofro
    Aug 30, 2022 at 14:31

4 Answers 4

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Using "am meisten" to elevate a participle to the superlative (as it is done in English) would be an Anglicism - the superlative of "das gefürchtete" is, indeed, "das gefürchtetste".

There is, however, a subtle twist why in your special case it isn't [an Anglicism].

"Das am meisten gefürchtete" is in fact the superlative of "das viel gefürchtete" (often contracted into one word).

So, in fact there is a very small difference in meaning between the two:

"Das am meisten gefürchtete" is more a superlative in terms of number of instances (i.e., there are a lot of people that fear the thing), while "das gefürchtetste" is a superlative more in quality (i.e. people fear the thing a lot). The difference is, however, so small, that many people would assume the two examples to be synonyms, would probably use it interchangeably, and would probably prefer to use "das am meisten ..." because "das gefürchtetste" is even twisting a native tongue quite a bit.

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You can say both:

Mündliche Prüfungen gehören zu den am meisten gefürchteten Prüfungen.

Mündliche Prüfungen gehören zu den gefürchtetsten Prüfungen.

"am meisten" is the superlative of "viel" (viel - mehr - am meisten). It sounds dramatically even stronger than the superlative "gefürchtesten".

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"am meisten" is referring to "gefürchteten" (adverbial use) "gefürchtetsten" is referring to "Prüfungen" You can use either one. I agree with Angela, it sounds a bit more dramatic, but I guess that is a personal interpretation, other native speakers may see it differently.

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It‘s easy: AM+ADJK/ADV+VERB: das AM HÄUFIGSTEN verwendete(Verb)Wort. AM+ADJ/ADV:Der GVT ist am schnellsten (von allen Zügen).Er ist der schnellste Zug.

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