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Given:

Of all ____ reasons for my decision to become a university professor, my father's advice was ____ most important one

Which of the following choice is correct?

  • A: the; a
  • B: /; a
  • C: /; the
  • D: the; the

The slash ("/") here means "don't fill anything".

The author says the correct answer is D, but I think C is also correct. Why is "the" required before "reasons"? What is the explanation from a grammatical point of view?

Actually I am an EFL teacher and my native language is Chinese. I am quite confused about the question. I've asked the question somewhere else, but they failed to explain why "of all the reasons" is grammatically correct while "of all reasons" is not. Or do you also think they both are correct?

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Both are grammatical, but "Of all the" is common/idiomatic. –  MετάEd Aug 12 '13 at 17:45
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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

It has to be ‘of all the reasons’ because ‘reasons’ is post-modified and defined by ‘for my decision to become a university professor’.

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The definite article serves to identify a specific example of a noun (singular) or a specific subset (plural). In the following sentences, the definite article is unnecessary because no specific identification is made:

She quit her job for the worst of all reasons.

The poodle is the most intelligent of all dogs.

In your example the noun reasons is post-modified. This serves to identify it and it is thus, as is typical, preceded by the definite article. Here are the same examples as above with post-modifications:

Of all the reasons why she quit her job, the color of her computer was the worst.

My poodle is the most intelligent of all the dogs in the room.

However, you will often see post-modified nouns that are not preceded by the definite article. This is clearly an acceptable usage for many native speakers:

Of all reasons for quitting her job, the color of her computer was the worst.

Of all dogs in the room my poodle is the most intelligent.

Of all reasons for my decision to become a university professor, my father's advice was the most important one.

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