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Please, read the following sentences:

  • Mary's father spends most (of the) time in the mill, where he works with his brother, Mario.

  • Mary's father spends the most time in the mill, where he works with his brother, Mario.


These are my understanding:

To me, the first is unquestionably right: He may work from 9 am - 7 pm. Then closes the mill and goes home to rest.

The second sounds a bit odd but has some logic: He spends most of his time compared to other activity: Maybe he runs a bar, drive a taxi, etc.

Are both examples acceptable?

Thank you.

2 Answers 2

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Both sentences are correct, but they don't have the same meaning.

The first means he spends more than half of the day in the mill. "Most of the time" means "more than half of the time".

The second has two possible meanings. One is that he spends more time in the mill than anywhere else. If he spends 5 hours in the mill, 3 hours at the gym and 4 hours at the bar, he spends the most time at the mill, but not more than half.

The other possible meaning is that he spends more time in the mill than anybody else. Again, it doesn't mean he spends more than half his time there.

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  • That was the answer I was looking for. Great as always, Gotube. Thanks. Commented Oct 22, 2022 at 16:19
  • I think by default The second means he spends more time in the mill than anyone else. Commented Oct 22, 2022 at 16:23
  • @FumbleFingers That's definitely another possible meaning. I've added it in. Thanks
    – gotube
    Commented Oct 22, 2022 at 16:37
  • I just ran a Google Books search for "he spends the most time in". In every case where the intended meaning is obvious (and where the word in doesn't actually end the sentence), it always seems to refer to "more time than someone / anyone else", not "the greater part of his time". Commented Oct 22, 2022 at 16:42
  • @FumbleFingers My answer isn't wrong though, is it? There are (at least) two possible meanings, and I've mentioned both.
    – gotube
    Commented Oct 22, 2022 at 20:38
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The first one is fine as a standalone sentence (with most of the or most of his.)

The second would only work if the previous sentence had stated what Mary's father spent part of his time doing. In that case, of course, the subject would need to be He, since he had already been identified.

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  • Got it. Thank you, Kate. Could you tell me if my reasoning is correct in both examples? Commented Oct 22, 2022 at 15:25
  • I thought my answer had explained that. Commented Oct 22, 2022 at 16:30

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