In English, we generally differentiate adverbs and adjectives by adding the ending –ly to adjectives to form adverbs (for example: “hot”, “hotly”). In German, there is no such visible difference when a word is used either as an adverb or as an adjective. (Recall, however, Recognizing Adverbs vs. Adjectives in Unit 4.) This applies even for comparative and superlative adjectives. In all cases you can tell from the context which meaning is being used.
Das Kind liest gut.
The child reads well.
Er läuft schneller.
He runs more quickly.
Sie läuft am schnellsten.
She runs fastest.
There are a few commonly used superlative words that are used only as adverbs such as höchst (highly), äußerst (extremely), and meistens (mostly). For instance,
Dieses Buch ist höchst interessant.
This book is (highly / most) interesting.
You will often see superlative constructions with am used in an adverbial sense, especially based on the adverbial meanings of the superlative adjectives best– (best), meist– (most), and wenigst– (least):
Meine Freunde haben gute Boote, aber mein Boot ist am besten ausgestattet.
My friends have good boats, but my boat is best equipped.
Sylvias Boot ist am wenigsten ausgestattet.
Sylvia’s boat is the least equipped.
Sylvia brauchte am meisten unsere Hilfe.
Sylvia needed our help the most.
If you are curious about the relation between gut and best, bear with us until the next unit.