Difference between ‘super’ and ‘superb’ in English

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more (PDF Version).

Both “super” and “superb” are common, but they are not completely interchangeable. Super is used nowadays mostly as an adverb meaning “very, really”, for example:

The food was super delicious. = The food was really delicious.
She was super friendly. = She was very friendly.

Nevertheless, such usage is considered colloquial and should be avoided in formal writing. As an adjective, “super” is an informal way of saying “extremely good”:

We had a super time. = We had a really good time.

However, “super” in this sense is falling out of use and may be considered old-fashioned, so, if you are a non-native speaker, you can safely avoid it.

Superb, on the other hand, means “excellent, outstanding”. It is not informal at all; on the contrary, it is mostly used in formal contexts:

The wine was superb! = The wine was excellent!
The singer amazed us with a superb performance. = The singer amazed us with an outstanding performance.

Also note the difference in pronunciation (“super” is stressed on the first syllable, “superb” on the second):

super US: /ˈsuːpɚ/; UK: /ˈsuːpə/ or /ˈsjuːpə/
superb US: /suˈpɝːb/ or /səˈpɝːb/; UK: /suːˈpɜːb/ or /sjuːˈpɜːb/

By the way, if you haven’t read my guide on how to avoid the most common mistakes in English, make sure to check it out; it deals with similar topics.

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