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I am a bit confused about whether or not I should use "THE" before "Most" in the following sentence. I have searched on the internet but I have before more confused about the issue so please help me in this regard. I will add this sentence to my formal writing.

What fascinates me the most about the textile industry is that it drives the economy of many third world countries

or

What fascinates me most about the textile industry is that it drives the economy of many third world countries

Which one is correct and why?

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There is a great discussion of this here:

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/most-the-most-mostly

As referenced in a similar discussion on English Language Usage Here:

https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/257401/when-to-use-most-or-the-most

To sum up those discussions, they both strike my ear as acceptable in common usage, but not using the article sounds more like formal speech, and more closely follows the rules set out in that Cambridge dictionary link. Use of the article in this context is typically for emphasis. I don't think a professor would ding you for it, but just "most" is probably better form for formal usage.

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