Chunk of the day: Where’s the best place to …?

This weekend sees the big match in north London between Arsenal and Tottenham. Among discussions about who has the best chance of winning and what the managers’ best teams are, there’s the more serious discussion of Where’s’s the best place to see the game? Our place of choice is The Beaconsfield, a lovely Victorian pub on Green Lanes.

One thing that always amazes me about EFL materials is how little the word best is exploited, particularly in patterns such as Where’s the best place to …? or What’s the best time to …? Just have a look at most examples of Elementary coursebooks and typically around page 74 you will find comparatives and superlatives enter our students’ EFL worlds. Just have a look how many examples of best there are and the other examples you get – the most dangerous street, the fastest animal, the tallest building, etc. This is a classic case of how grammar takes over from frequency, communicative value and making life easier for students. Check out and you’ll find the British National corpus has 182.69 examples per million words for the best compared to just 1.75 for the most dangerous. The best is over 100 times more frequent! And don’t think that the best has been already covered in Starter-level books – most don’t even have superlatives in them!

What’s great about this pattern is that answers can be very simple

A: Where’s the best place to eat round here?

B: Selale – very nice, very cheap.

A: Where’s the best place to buy food?

B: The market.

A: What’s the best time to call you?

B: Evening

A: What’s the best time to go there?

B: Summer.

In class, you could give some of these examples. You might then elicit other words to replace the verbs, and you might give other starters such as Who’s the best …? depending on your students’ abilities. You might ask students to use a dictionary to write their own examples. And, of course, in monolingual groups particularly, there may be a lot of discussion generated by the questions as few will agree on the best . . . as anyone who ever listens to football fans talking will know!

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