What is the difference between the two sentences below:

They did it for the nicest reasons
They did it for the nicest of reasons

from the meaning perspective?

Note: I see that someone downgraded the question without even the courtesy of telling why. Please tell so we can learn. Note that we are not native speakers.

  • A similar phrase is “best intentions/best of intentions” – thehole Sep 9 '19 at 23:58

I am a native UK English speaker and have spent a few minutes trying to figure out the difference between the two phrasings. In an informal situation, such as a simple conversation I don't think we would expend effort to select one or the other; both imply a very positive motivation.

If we were delivering a formal speech or were producing a written document we might note that

nicest reasons

is plural, implying that there were more than one reasons for the action. Whereas

nicest of reasons

allows for there being a single motivation. I do think that the phrase does not exclude there being multiple nicest of reasons.

I suspect that the we would actually select one phrase or the other based on our sense of style and rhythm. To my ears "nicest of reasons" seems, um, nicer. I had thought it was actually more idiomatic too, but I can find no evidence for that; "nicest of reasons" seems not be found by Google's ngram.

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