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This is the way i have been taught:

1) Most kids like cake = "most kids in the world" = in general. No article needed.

2) Most of the kids in this house like cake = "in this house" makes it specific. The article is needed here.

My doubt is about words like neighbourhood, country, province and so on.

For instance

1) Most of the people in this neighbourhood are English.

2) Most people in this neighbourhood are English?

3) Most people in this country/province/area are rich?

4) Most of the people in this country/province/area are rich?

How could I identify these aspects for future references?

Is it about things that i can count and things that i can not count?

How big/small enough should a group of things or people be as to be defined as general or specific?

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3 Answers 3

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If you don't qualify the group, you can say, "Most people are ...", etc.

If you qualify the group, you can say, "Most people in France are ..." or "Most of the people in France are ..." Whether you use "of the" or not doesn't really change the meaning.

It's not a question of "how big/small a group". The two are equivalent. You don't need "the" because the group is specific. You need "the" because you included the preposition "of", which turns what follows into a preposition phrase. So "most" is no longer modifying "people" (or whatever), it's modifying "of the people". Now "people" is in a separate phrase and needs an article.

Size can go either way. You can say, "Most of the creatures in the universe ...", or conversely you can say, "Most people in this room ..."

Update

Thanks for asking that question. It brings up a point I didn't think about. This gets into some very subtle and idiomatic points in English.

When the qualifier is long, like "people who have lived in Germany at some point in their lives", including "of the" is pretty much optional. "Most people who have lived in Germany at some point in their lives like sausage", and "Most of the people who have lived in Germany" etc, are basically interchangeable.

When the qualifier is short, like "Germans", we usually only use "of the" when we want to say that this is a sub-group of some larger group that we have already identified. Like, "People from 20 countries are attending our food festival. Most of the Germans like sausage." If you just said, "Most Germans like sausage" it would be unclear if you meant, Germans in general, or just Germans at this festival.

We rarely say "of the" when the qualifier is short and we are not identifying a subgroup. If you were just talking about food in general, you would say, "Most Germans like sausage", not "Most of the Germans like sausage." If you used the second, it would be understood to mean the same as the first, but it's not what people normally say.

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  • So, "most Germans like sausage" and " most of the Germans like sausage" are completely interchangeable?
    – juan
    Sep 12, 2017 at 18:54
  • That calls for a long answer. Let me update the post.
    – Jay
    Sep 12, 2017 at 21:01
  • Now i understand ! 👍👍
    – juan
    Sep 13, 2017 at 16:03
  • You got the point right. "Most of the..." refers to a subgroup when the context has them. Nov 21, 2017 at 17:05
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https://www.macmillandictionary.com/us/dictionary/american/most_1[enter link description here][use of most]

Most is the superlative form of much and many and can be used in the following ways:

as an adverb (before an adjective or another adverb):

a most interesting lecture

the question that is asked most often. (with a verb):

Love is what these children need most.

(after “the”): Angie looks the most like her father.

as a determiner (before a noun):

Most stores will be closed on Christmas.

(after “the”):

Which athlete won the most medals?

as a pronoun:

All the victims were male, and most were between the ages of 15 and 25. (after “the”): (followed by “of”):

Most of my friends live in this area.

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"Most + noun" and "Most of the + noun" are often interchangeable. "most" means "the majority" so we can render "most' as "the majority of (the) + noun".

There is a difference when we need to speak about a certain noun that has a contextual connection with the previous statements. In this case it would be wise and correct to use "most of the + noun":

Take this context:

  • If you want to find those books go to the library. Most books you have on your list can be found there. (this sound wrong, since we are speaking about some specific books that you need from your list, so the definite article is a must)

Or take this example for instance:

  • The driver has been updated recently. Most of the work was aimed at improving perfomance in games. (although "work" isn't mentioned ealier it still has a direct connection with the previous statement and thus is specific)

Also notice that you cannot use "Most + possessive + noun":

  • Most my friends are younger than me. (incorrect)
  • Most of my friends are younger than me. (correct)

Notice that when the noun is a single object or a mass noun, then we can only use "most of the + noun":

  • Most of the planet is filled with water. (not most planet)
  • Most of the space was occupied by huge crates. (not most space)
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  • Most and most of are not interchangeable. Most people like food. Most of the people here like food.
    – Lambie
    Nov 21, 2017 at 17:33
  • @Lambie Really? "Most people in here think you are wrong" or "Most football players in our team can hold a ball on their head" Nov 21, 2017 at 17:37
  • "You can rephrase it like this as well: Most friends of mine are younger than me." Where did you read this? (see NGram Viewer)
    – Victor B.
    Nov 21, 2017 at 18:35
  • @Rompey Don't really remember. Is that incorrect? I often spoke like that. Nov 21, 2017 at 18:36
  • "Most my friends... (incorrect)". I wouldn't be so sure about it, at least when earlier literature is concerned.
    – Victor B.
    Nov 21, 2017 at 18:48

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