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A thing I have never had the time to look more closely into. But I find both variants:

What I love most is ...

or

What I love the most is ...

I think the more common form is 'the most', and I think 'most' is only a matter of shortening the adverbial. But I may be mistaken. It might also be that it is a thing of regional or individual preferences or that American and British usage diverge.

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What possible difference could this make? Whichever one you choose, your audience will understand you to be choosing a favorite of some kind. They will not care whether you added the definite article or not. –  Robusto Jul 7 '12 at 15:53
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Actually you are right ,but this kind of questions is not really about the communication ,its just about the language itself –  Frank Jul 7 '12 at 16:03
    
It seems to be about the language, but an answer will tell us nothing worth knowing. –  Robusto Jul 7 '12 at 16:32
    
@Robusto: I'm inclined to agree with you, that this is a moot question. Just because something is more common doesn't mean it's always better in all circumstances. Since examples of both can be found, it might be more practical to ask something along the lines of, When would one be preferred over the other? But I took a stab at this nonetheless. –  J.R. Jul 7 '12 at 19:16
    
Related question: english.stackexchange.com/questions/27021/… –  user19148 Jul 7 '12 at 19:33

4 Answers 4

I did a few searches in Google books to see if I could find a pattern. It seems like more hits are found when the article is omitted rather than added. Here are my results (all searches were done "in quotes"):

Things I love most: 8310 results
Things I love the most: 1570

Things I hate most: 2060
Things I hate the most: 195

Things that bother me most: 859
Things that bother me the most: 207

Things I like best: 25,000
Things I like the best: 295

Things I do best: 6890
Things I do the best: 1870

Given that a pattern is emerging, the next question would be: Why?

I remember one tip for effective writing: eliminate extraneous words. That admonition is found all over the web. For example, such words are called flab in this blog; the same exhortation is buried into Tip #9 of this writer's guide:

9) Write more than one draft of your essay. Great writing comes from revision. Eliminate extraneous words and phrases. After you revise, be sure to proofread and spell-check your work. Proof-reading is not the same as revising!

I'm guessing that it's often omitted because it's unnecessary. Which leads me to the last pair of queries I ran (not in Google books, but just as a Google web search):

Eliminate extraneous words: 5890
Eliminate the extraneous words: 68

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If your question is about frequency, in both the Corpus of Contemporary English and the British National Corpus there are three times as many records for most as for the most.

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4  
Can you elaborate on how you arrived at your conclusion and more generally how someone could answer a question about word or phrase frequency? That would make a really great answer. –  MετάEd Jul 7 '12 at 15:12
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Also, how could there not be more records for a single word vs. a word combination? Are you taking into account all uses of most as adverb, determiner, and pronoun? Compare corpus responses for best, worst, and least vs. adding the to each. –  Robusto Jul 7 '12 at 15:39
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Then would a more useful search be "love most" vs. "love the most"? –  MετάEd Jul 7 '12 at 15:58
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"There is no difference ... in frequency of usage" tells us nothing. You have offered a specious statistic masquerading as a fact. Unless I miss my guess, what the OP really wants to know is not answered by your query. –  Robusto Jul 7 '12 at 16:01
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@BarrieEngland: So just to be clear: the numbers in your answer are simply for "most" and "the most", no context? If so, how do you think that is relevant to the question? Why don't you replace what you have now with these results for "love most" and "love the most"? –  Cerberus Jul 7 '12 at 16:10

There may be a slight difference in meaning. It would be somewhat awkward to omit "the" in the following, because we are referring to someone/something mentioned previously:

What I loved the most [about her] was her eyes.

On the other hand "the" would be unnecessary in the following, because we are not referring to any context much more specific than life in general:

What I loved most [of all] was being able to play in the woods as a child.

But one might say:

What I loved the most [about my childhood] was being able to play in the woods.

I would conclude that an indefinite "most" is slightly more general and less dependent on context than "the most." With the latter, there is usually some antecedent to answer "the most of what?"

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According to Google's ngram most seems to be more common than the most.

enter image description here

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Why the down vote? –  Noah Jul 7 '12 at 17:27
    
I didn't downvote, but see this meta post. Ngrams isn't generally reliable enough to be presented without accompanying evidence. –  Daniel Jul 7 '12 at 17:49
    
This really doesn't answer the question. –  simchona Jul 7 '12 at 17:58
    
It could be the start of a good answer to the question, but it probably needs some more analysis and explanation. (NMD) –  J.R. Jul 7 '12 at 18:46

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