BAD > WORSE > WORST
Most people know the difference between bad and worse and the difference between bad and worst. However, the difference between worse and worst can be a little more difficult. I attribute this to how similar the words sound when you speak them aloud. You can get away with saying “worse” when you mean “worst” and vice versa because they sound alike. However, they are definitely different words with different meanings so you want to be sure you know how to use them correctly. You may get away with it in spoken language, but your error is easily spotted in writing.
Note that this is one of those cases where spell-check probably won’t correct you, so you need to know which word to use.
Worse should be used when comparing two things that are bad. One thing is worse than the other.
Worse: (comparative) A comparative of bad; less good; lower quality
Worst should be used to describe the thing that is the most bad out of multiple choices or situations.
Worst: (superlative) Most severe; most unpleasant
Why so complicated?
Most comparatives/superlatives follow the same pattern as the below:
Easy > Easier > Easiest
However, worse and worst are irregular so they don’t follow the “er” then “est” rule.
Bad > Worse > Worst
(Remember the only rule in grammar without an exception is the one that states that there is an exception to every rule in grammar.)
The worst is yet to come.
This phrase means that the most unfortunate of all things is coming soon. Not just something worse than the thing before, but the absolute worst of all things. Thus, the correct word here is worst.
Consider the worst-case scenario. What’s the worst that could happen?
These phrases are both referring to the most terrible outcome imaginable. Therefore, the correct word is worst. You can’t get worse than the worst.
Only use “worst” if there is nothing that could be any more horrific. Therefore, the worst is the least desirable. It is also the most horrible. Worst, least and most all end in “st.”
So next time you’re comparing your old hairstyles on Throwback Thursday, make sure you know when a style was worse than the one you have now and which was the worst of all time.