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I thought we need "the" before the word most. Such as in:

She is the most beautiful girl.

But, I came across this sentence:

Most incredible is how many Islamic scholars have popped up over the past few years.

Why isn't there "the" before the word "most" ? I know "the" is not needed if the word afterward is an adverb as in:

I like it most.

However, "incredible" isn't being used as an adverb here.

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

Before a singular count noun modified by 'most' plus an adjective you need a determiner, and this can include either the definite article or indefinite article. So technically, one could say both

She is the most beautiful girl.

and

She is a most beautiful girl.

For the difference in usage, see a most talented writer -- grammar -- why not "the most talented writer"?.

For an adjective only, without any following noun, you use most by itself, because there is no noun.

Most beautiful was the girl I knew in high school.

The girl next door was most beautiful.

Most incredible is how many...

We have to be careful because in some situations, the noun can be ellided or implied. It should be clear from context if this is the case:

The girl next door was the most beautiful (girl).

The most astonishing (fact) is that zombies are real.

Curiously, to use an implied or ellided noun with the indefinite article seems doubtful as to its grammaticality.

?The girl next door was a most beautiful.

The question mark (?) marks this sentence as having questionable grammaticality. That is not all people will judge it to be grammatical. Thinking about it, I can think of contexts where it would be grammatical, but it would be rare.

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3  
+1 and a very good answer. I liked the part (most by itself...), which is an answer to another askable question! – Maulik V Jan 6 at 6:02

Adding to @GoDucks' nice answer, when most means very, exceedingly or extremely as an intensifier, you should not use the definite article the. It could be a better explanation because there is a case where the is not used even though there is a noun after "most + adjective", i.e.:

This is most dangerous procedure.

The above sentence doesn't mean that the procedure is the most dangerous procedure of all the procedures. It just indicates a degree of danger that the procedure carries.

Therefore, whenever you see the word most without articles, you could try to replace it with the intensifiers I suggested above, i.e.:

Most (very, exceedingly, extremely) incredible is how many Islamic scholars have popped up over the past few years.

This is most (very, exceedingly, extremely) dangerous procedure.

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1  
Since "procedure" is a singular count noun, shouldn't it be "This is a most dangerous procedure."? – CowperKettle Jan 6 at 13:57
1  
@CopperKettle Procedure has a mass noun usage, too. – Rathony Jan 6 at 13:59
    
@CopperKettle Let's use an easier to recognize mass noun: This is most dangerous justice. I would tend to place the most + adjective after the noun: This is justice most dangerous or This is news most strange. Either way it's not something you see every day. It is most unusual grammar, or grammar most unusual. – GoDucks Jan 6 at 16:20
    
Or indeed, Murder Most Foul, which works so much better than Most Foul Murder! But +1 to Ranthony for mentioning mass nouns with most + adjective. – GoDucks Jan 6 at 16:37

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