I want to know when we should use "of" after "most." For instance,

Most of the documents are read completely.


Most documents are read completely.

Most of (the) people know about that.


Most people know about that.

What is the general rule?

  • The general rule is that if you include the (optional) definite article the, you're explicitly referring to some particular documents or group of people - the documents we were talking about earlier, or "the people" identified as a substantial part of "society in general", for example. Mar 9, 2017 at 18:26

2 Answers 2


When you say most people or most books you are speaking in general terms about the majority of people (in a country, in the world) and the majority of books (eg. are soft-back or are now available online).

Most people would agree with me .....

Most people would object to your views...

When you speak of most of the people you are talking about people in a particular context and not universally:

Most of the people in the hall....

Most of the people who went to university...

The same applies to books:

Most of the books in the library....

Most of the books that I have read...

Thus most of the documents would refer to specific documents

Most documents would refer to documents in general.


It's a difference of scope. Adding "of the" narrows the scope. For instance:

Most people know about that.

This implies that most people in the world know about "that".

Most of the people know about that.

This implies that most people in the group being referenced know about "that".

  • 1
    I think it's worth noting that in practice most of the people know that would often be used in contexts where there isn't actually any specific "group being referenced". The implication in that case is usually that the conversants don't really consider themselves to be included in "the people" - for example, a couple of political spin doctors talking about whether the ordinary (voting) public are aware of something. Mar 9, 2017 at 18:34

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