I have heard this phrase below from a native speaker

"Italians appreciate Team sports the most."

Is it correct? Why "the most" was put at the end of the sentence?


Superlatives in English are generally understood to be adjectives modifying something. You can see their use as adjectives when the noun they modify is shown in the sentence.

1. John is the shortest man.
2. Picasso seems to be the best artist.

Because they act as adjectives on the direct object, they have to come after the verb.

But in sentences where there's already a direct object for the verb, superlatives encounter a problem:

 1. (BAD) I love him the most love in the world.
 2. (BAD) He punches his opponents the fastest punch out of all boxers.
 3. (BAD) Italians appreciate team sports the most appreciation.

English doesn't like having two direct objects for a verb being said in the same sentence. So instead, it removes the noun so that the sentence sounds correct.

1. I love him the most in the world.
2. He punches his opponents the fastest out of all boxers.
3. Italians appreciate team sports the most.

This view where the noun is dropped is supported in this very complicated paper on the use of superlatives in several languages.

Note that putting the superlative after the verb sometimes sounds awkward when the overt direct object can take the superlative instead.

1.  (OK) He plays chess the fastest.
         He plays the fastest chess.
         He plays the fastest chess in the world.
  (BAD?) He plays chess the fastest in the world.
2. (OK) Maria sings opera the loudest.
        Maria sings the loudest opera.
        Maria sings the loudest opera in the world.
 (BAD?) Maria sings opera the loudest in the world
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  • And how is it explained with intransitive verbs? When you have a headache, aspirin helps (the) most. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Feb 15 '17 at 21:17
  • When the verb is intransitive, by definition it doesn't take direct objects. Thus the noun must be squashed as to retain grammaticality. However, while in this case "help" is intransitive, it's more often transitive: "I helped him." – eijen Feb 15 '17 at 22:00
  • I'm not sure what squashed means in this context. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Feb 16 '17 at 1:39

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