"As best you can"
What is the logic of "as best (as) you can"?
"As" introduces an adjective or adverb in its simple, normal state, doesn't
it, as in "This is as good as it gets" or "I ran as fast as I could" or
"Close the door as quietly as possible, please, so you won't wake the
So shouldn't the expression be: "as well as you can," not "as best you
Posted 19 February 2003
There is a case to be made for considering this idiom a kind of comparative.
In fact, some dictionaries equate it with "as well as
one can." The Collins COBUILD English Language Dictionary (1987)
says, for example, "If someone does something as best
they can, they try as hard as they can to succeed in
(It should be pointed out that there is not a second as
in the idiom as best (one) can, at least in
standard written usage. Informal usage is different, with a second as
fairly common. In standard written style it’s of the form as best
Others, however, consider this idiom as a kind of superlative, not a
comparative. The Random House Dictionary of the English Language (1977),
for example, says that it means "in the best possible way, under the
Similarly, the online American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms (by
Christine Ammer: copyright 1997, The Christine Ammer Trust) gives its
meaning as "to the ultimate of one’s ability."
From this evidence it seems that there is no consensus as to whether this
expression is a kind of comparative or a superlative, but in any case,
it’s an idiom and is therefore outside the bounds of ordinary rules of
logic and grammar.