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I have met the following expression:

It is best not to do something.

The issue is I thought that with the superlative form of an adverb we should use the article "the" ("the most" or "the best", e.g.).

Could anybody explain why we can omit "the" here?

14

This is the best car in the garage.

We use articles like the and a before nouns, like car. The word "best" is an adjective, and adjectives do not take articles by themselves. Because the noun car is modified by the superlative adjective best, and because this makes the noun car definite in this context, we use the.

It is best not to do something.

Here, we have the adjective best, but this adjective is attached to no noun.

The adjective best is used in a copular construction with the dummy pronoun it. This pronoun does not refer to any object. There's no noun that we can attach the to here.

  • Took me a while to see how this answer does in fact extend to other examples where "best" is used without "the": the deciding part is if the noun becomes "definite in [the] context", not whether or not there's a real noun. – Dan Getz Jan 3 '16 at 5:07
  • @DanGetz -- maybe you could post an additional answer explaining this point. – CowperKettle Jan 3 '16 at 5:13

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