Learn English – “The” before superlative

definite-articlessuperlative-degree

Possible Duplicate:
Do I need to put “the” before “most” in this sentence?

I've always thought you need the definite article 'the' before the superlative of an adjective, except when the comparison is made within the same subject: The swimming pool is deepest here.

Some people say 2 is the more idiomatic. Is this true?

  1. The most tuna are caught in early November.
  2. Most tuna are caught in early November.

Best Answer

These say two different things.

The most tuna are caught in early November.

This means more tuna is caught in early November than any other comparable time frame. Here, 'most' is a superlative meaning "the amount that is greatest". It means the quantity of tuna caught in early November is greater than anything comparable, which would be tuna caught during other comparable time frames.

Most tuna are caught in early November.

This means that the majority of tuna that are caught are caught in early November. Here, 'most' is an intensifier meaning "more than half".

So, for example:

The most births occur in August and September

This is true, more births occur in those months than any other comparable time frame.

Most births occur in August and Septmeber.

This is false. In fact, most births occur in the other 10 months.

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