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Could someone please write an example that demonstrates this rule of thumb below?

"It is the most interesting book I have ever read." "Most" is an adjective. "The" isn't optional. But I cannot think of an example where it's used as an adverb and "the" is optional.

Or perhaps this could be an example "I like poetry the most." Where "the" is optional.

This is the rule: "A reasonable rule of thumb is that when the word 'most' is an adjective, use 'the'. When it's an adverb, you can omit 'the'."

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    Yes, you could omit "the" in your example about poetry. Doesn't this solve your own question? Are you looking for more examples? Or for counterexamples that disprove the rule of thumb? Feb 23, 2022 at 15:21
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    Also, just to prevent confusion: This question seems to focus on "most" as a superlative. For this discussion (and for the rule of thumb to work), the usage "most of" is unrelated, as in "Most of the people were happy." Feb 23, 2022 at 15:24
  • @Andy Bonner, I don't understand this rule of thumb. Feb 23, 2022 at 15:26
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    @Andy Bonner, In this sentence "This is the most interesting book I have ever read" "most" is not an adjective it is an adverb which modifies the adjective interesting. But "the" isn't optional. Feb 23, 2022 at 15:40
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    Antonia A, you're correct that "most" is an adverb in the "the most interesting book" example, and also that it isn't optional. I think you've demonstrated that this rule of thumb, as written, isn't very useful!
    – Nanigashi
    Feb 23, 2022 at 16:51

2 Answers 2

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This is a bit tricky because there are multiple meanings and usages of the word most. Look at this Merriam-Webster entry:

most adjective
1: greatest in quantity, extent or degree
// the most ability

This is the meaning you focused on first, a superlative. And yes, as I can't think of an example of this usage that could omit "the."

2: the majority of
// most people

This is still an adjective, but for the purposes of your discussion, this is a completely different usage. You wouldn't use an article in "Most people agree on this." Or if you did ("The most people agree on this"), you change the meaning back to number 1 ("Some people agree on X, more people agree on Y, but the most people agree on Z.")

The entry continues with adverbs:

most adverb
1: to the greatest or highest degree —often used with an adjective or adverb to form the superlative
// the most challenging job he ever had

You'll note their example uses "the." You gave an example in which "the" can be omitted, but I think it might be the only such construction: "I like it most," in which "most" is not modifying another adverb or adjective, and is understood as a shortening of "I like it most of all." I can't think of another use with this meaning that can omit "the."

However, there is another adverbial meaning that can't use "the":

2: to a very great degree
// was most persuasive

Like adjective #2, this one is no longer a superlative. In fact, we could think of it as synonymous with very: "A cup of soup on a rainy day is most lovely—but a bowl is even better!"

See the rest of the M-W page for more uses. There's a noun which can take or omit "the" ("It took him an hour at [the] most"). There's an adverb (colloquial usage) which shortens "almost" ("We'll be crossing the river most any time now").

Bottom line? Know which usage you're dealing with!

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  • then it's not true that there is such a rule according to which "the" can be omitted before "most" when it's an adverb. Right? Do you mean that in "I like it the most" the can be omitted? Feb 24, 2022 at 10:45
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  1. "most" is not optional in "I like poetry the most." (I think you made a typo)
  2. "I like poetry the most" is a good example because "the" can be omitted as the rule states.
  3. "I drive most during daytime" Is another example where "the" is optional.
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  • Don't 1 and 2 contradict each other? Is "I like poetry most" grammatical?
    – Stuart F
    Feb 23, 2022 at 17:25
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    @StuartF notice that 1 is concerning if MOST is optional (it isn't) and 2 is concerning if THE is optional (it is). And yes, "I like poetry most" is grammatical. Consider: "I like cars, houses and poetry, but I like poetry most."
    – Eli Harold
    Feb 23, 2022 at 21:51

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