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I came across the following sentence in an exercise book for non-native students of English. I am not sure if the structure of the main clause is correct or at least common in English. If not, is there another way to rewrite it?

As I ran, my leg got most tired.

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Strictly speaking there's nothing wrong grammatically with this. What is unusual about it, and what makes it grate slightly to (at least this) native speaker, is that there is a clash of styles: "got" in this context is slightly informal (though entirely normal in conversation), whereas "most tired" is rather formal/old fashioned.

Either would be fine alone, in the right context, but putting the two together makes for a strange mix. To fix it, while keeping the meaning the same:

  • If you want to be formal, replacing "got" with "grew" is better than "became", which to me feels slightly clunky in this context.

  • If you want to go the other way use "very" in place of "most".

  • I also think it’s odd that there is only one leg. Unless it is known that the runner has only one leg I would think it more correct to say “my legs got...” or, if referring to a specific leg, “my left leg got...” – Fogmeister Dec 3 '17 at 9:48
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    @Fogmeister: Some people do only have one leg! But also many people have one leg that's known to have issues (e.g. due to past injury); in those circumstances it would be quite normal to say "my leg got tired", implicitly referring to the injured one. – psmears Dec 3 '17 at 13:36
  • true. But you would have to know of predicting conditions in those cases... I think. Would be strange without that previous context. :-) – Fogmeister Dec 3 '17 at 19:19
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As jsheeran notes, this sentence is arguably grammatically correct. But it does not sound natural to my (American) ear.

There are several ways that this sentence can be made more natural to a native speaker of English. Many of these ways will not sound natural to many Japanese-speaking translators:

  • As jsheeran notes, "became" is more appropriate in this context than "got".
  • Instead of using a superlative with a past-participle (such as "most tired"), use an adverb with an adjective or post participle. For example, "extremely tired".
  • Instead of saying "most tired" or "extremely tired", use a more intense adjective or past-participle. For example, "exhausted", "sore", or "worn out".
  • When running, usually both legs become tired at a similar rate. Perhaps "leg" should be changed to "legs". This change would also require changing the verb conjugation to maintain subject-verb agreement.
  • Instead of using a general complaint like their "legs" being "tired", perhaps the person has a more specific complaint. Perhaps their "knees" or "ankles" are "sore", or perhaps they suffer from "shin splints".

Here are some alternative sentences with similar meanings to the original sentence. The first sentences are closer in meaning; the later sentences diverge from the original sentence's meaning.

  • As I ran, my leg became extremely tired.
  • As I ran, my legs became increasingly tired.
  • As I ran, my legs got more and more tired.
  • As I ran, the muscles in my legs became very sore.
  • As I ran, my left knee started to ache.
  • As I ran, my shin splints became increasingly painful.
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    As for that bit about got vs. became, I don't want learners thinking got is inappropriate. It's very idiomatic, to the point where I think I'd likely use got in conversation – although I might be inclined to change that to a different verb (like grew) in a blog or something. – J.R. Dec 2 '17 at 10:08
  • "most" tired? The word "most" suggests a comparison. So, most compared to what? If I was in an arm-wresting contest and, at the end, I was probably the most tired/sore, that is probably comparing my arm to those of the other contestants. But "My leg got most tired" is not clearly telling us what else got less tired. (Your other leg? Your arm? Somebody else's limb?) The sentence felt unnatural because it felt rather incomplete. – TOOGAM Dec 2 '17 at 11:15
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    @TOOGAM: There's nothing wrong with saying "most tired", even without something to compare with - it's entirely correct. However, it's fairly old fashioned / formal, so it would be unusual to use it, especially in conversation. – psmears Dec 2 '17 at 11:44
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    @TOOGAM - The word "most" often suggests a comparison, but it doesn't have to. Look at the second adverbial definition here; the word "most" can simply mean "very". If I say to my friend Ed and his wife Karen, "You are most welcome to stay at our house," I'm not saying that Ed and Karen are more welcome than, say, Fred and Carol, or Ted and Corine. – J.R. Dec 2 '17 at 11:44
  • As a native U.S. English speaker, hearing "my leg got most tired," I would suspect that the speaker learned English from an old book. "You are most welcome here," however, seems perfectly natural. Perhaps it's because people see it as a virtue to use phrases from old books when offering hospitality. – David K Dec 2 '17 at 15:55
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It's correct, although perhaps not the most common way of phrasing it. See the following example from Wiktionary:

Adverb
To a great extent or degree; highly; very.

This is a most unusual specimen.

I'd be inclined to use became instead of got, though.

  • Can we replace "most" with "more and more"? – Mido Mido Dec 2 '17 at 9:50
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    @MidoMido -- Yes, but the replacement changes the meaning of the sentence. – Jasper Dec 2 '17 at 10:04
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My leg...

  • became, grew

  • very, extremely

tired.

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