I came across this exercise in one of the Oxford books.

  • Most / Most of the flowers bought at airports are safe, about 90%.

Shouldn't we use "most of the" when we are talking about a specific set of something?

  • I may be very naive, but what danger do the other 10% of the flowers bought at the airport pose? Oct 31, 2014 at 11:35
  • In the Answer Key, it's "Most flowers bought at airports are safe, about 90%."
    – MooPer
    Oct 31, 2014 at 11:45
  • 2
    @MooPer That's because the word the is missing from the other option. So most flowers is correct, most of flowers is incorrect, and most of the flowers would also be correct, but wasn't one of the choices.
    – Barmar
    Oct 31, 2014 at 19:30
  • That comma sure is weird though.
    – jocap
    Jan 5, 2015 at 21:04
  • Please show the actual book, linking if possible. I'm sure no editors would allow 'Most of flowers bought at airports are safe, about 90%', especially in a grammar. Unless you had to point out an incorrect answer. May 14, 2022 at 11:51

3 Answers 3


You can either use most flowers or most of the flowers. *Most of flowers is incorrect.

This Grammar site explains that

When speaking in general, we use most to refer to a quantity of an unspecific group of people or things. Most is a determiner (a quantifier) to the subject noun:

  • Most students ask questions.

As for most of the, it says:

When speaking specifically, we use most with a prepositional phrase that limits the number to a specific group:

  • Most of the students [PP] ask questions.

Here, most is accompanied by the PP of the students to refer to an understood (known) group of students.

So depending on whether you want to speak unspecifically or specifically, use either most flowers or most of the flowers.

  • No. The flowers in OP are specified by the postnominal defining participial phrase 'bought at airports'. The alternatives are in this case totally synonymous (ignoring possible pragmatic concerns such as 'punchier'). // With your examples, with no post-specification, the comments given apply. May 14, 2022 at 11:57
  • @EdwinAshworth I'm looking at the edited question and racking my brains trying to figure out why "Most flowers" is incorrect, it's your edit, Edwin. You included the definite article, when there was none in the original.
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 14, 2022 at 19:40
  • "Most of flowers" is very ungrammatical.
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 14, 2022 at 19:41
  • 1
    @Mari-Lou A As you say, 'Most of flowers ...' is totally unacceptable, and shouldn't be suggested on ELU. I edited it out, so that the alternatives are 'Most / Most of the flowers bought at airports ...', ie 'Most flowers bought at airports ...' / 'Most of the flowers bought at airports ...' May 16, 2022 at 15:50

This has pretty much been answered already. In this case, since "Most of" is missing the, it would be "Most." If the were present, then either would make equal sense.


"Most / Most of" sounds like someone trying to sound "scientific", or authoritative, or otherwise highbrow.

Perhaps a student, or a beginning journalist.

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