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Is it wrong to say that we can use or omit "the" before "best" with an adverb without any change of meaning, but when we use "most" with an adverb, the meaning of the sentence changes?

For example, "You are the best." Or "You are best." "Choose the book you like the best." "Choose the book you like best." "Choose the book you like the most." "Choose the book you like most". No change in meaning.

But if I have an adverb. "She walks most gracefully." Means she walks very gracefully. "She walks the most gracefully." She is compared to other people.

  • Where did you find this information? – BillJ Aug 22 '20 at 14:17
  • Judging by these examples if they are correct of course. – Antonia A Aug 22 '20 at 14:20
  • What research have you done? – BillJ Aug 22 '20 at 14:21
  • I read examples in different books and asked questions before as well. After reading rjpond's answer I see that both set of examples can have different meanings but with "most" the meaning of a single sentence changes if I use it with another adverb. – Antonia A Aug 22 '20 at 14:47
  • I see. I was only asking if it's correct to say that. I see that in all the examples below if there was a change of meaning it was in both examples with or without "the" but when I used "most" with an adverb there was an additional meaning. I mean here "You are the best at tennis" "and "you are best at tennis", "choose the book you like the best or best" both of them can have different meanings but "most" and another adverb in a standalone sentence has a completely different meaning. Just a humble non-native speaker's opinion I was no sure about and which prompted me to ask my question. – Antonia A Aug 22 '20 at 15:42
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Best v the best

"You are the best at tennis" v "You are best at tennis"

These mean the same, although both of them have a range of meanings. They could mean that you're better at tennis than other people in the room, or on the team, or at your school, or in the world. Alternatively, they could mean that you're better at tennis than at any of the other sports you play - without specifying that you're better at tennis than other people.

"You are the best" v "You are best"

If the statement was made in the context of a particular discussion (for example, about tennis), the two would have the same meaning (and the same range of meanings that we saw in the previous examples).

However, "You're the best!" as a complete sentence can also be an expression of gratitude, meaning "You're awesome!" - whereas "You're best" rarely if ever has this meaning.

"Choose the book you like the best." "Choose the book you like best."

These mean the same.

"Choose the book you like the most." "Choose the book you like most".

These mean the same.

"She walks most gracefully." v "She walks the most gracefully."

"She walks the most gracefully" usually means that she walks more gracefully than other people (although which particular group of other people is ambiguous or dependent on context, as with the tennis example). Alternatively, it could mean that she walks more gracefully than she performs other activities - this is unusual, but would be clear from the context.

"She walks most gracefully" could be a synonym for "She walks very gracefully". But "she walks most gracefully" could also be used to mean "she walks the most gracefully". So, the version without the "the" carries both meanings (or sets of meanings).

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    Yes, that's right. – rjpond Aug 22 '20 at 14:41
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    Yes, "I like vanilla cream best", "I like vanilla cream the best", "I like vanilla cream most", and "I like vanilla cream the most" all mean the same thing and interchangeable - although the version with "the most" is slightly more formal, the other three slightly more informal. – rjpond Aug 22 '20 at 14:55
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    "She speaks Spanish most confidently" could mean "She speaks Spanish very confidently" or it could mean the same as "She speaks Spanish the most confidently". – rjpond Aug 22 '20 at 14:57
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    Yes, that's correct. – rjpond Aug 22 '20 at 15:02
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    @AntoniaA Right. – rjpond Aug 22 '20 at 15:12

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