Dear respectable audience

I am not a native English speaker, though with some amount of experience and proficiency in its use.

Here is what I would like to ask:

does the following sound natural or not for native English speakers?

Spinach is a vegetable I don't like the most

in a sense of

Spinach is my least favorable vegetable

  • Are you trying to convey that among all vegetables, spinach ranks near last (i.e. you absolutely hate it)? Or are you suggesting that spinach isn't your favorite, but perhaps it's not awful (e.g. you love broccoli, but can tolerate spinach)? – Talmage Jul 25 '18 at 21:50
  • 1
    "... the vegetable [that] I like the least" – Cascabel Jul 25 '18 at 22:01
  • the implicit meaning of the phrase is that among a class of things called "vegetables" spinach is my least favorite - i.e. I like other things that belong to the same class more what I wanted to ask with respect to my question is whether the very way of saying "... I don't like the most" sounds natural to native speakers – Evgeny Jul 25 '18 at 22:05
  • Hi Evgeny, welcome to English Language & Usage (ELU). Note that ELU is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. The best place to ask questions like yours about basic English is at English Language Learners. – Chappo Hasn't Forgotten Monica Jul 25 '18 at 22:05
  • "I like the least" or "I most dislike" are your options. – RegDwigнt Jul 25 '18 at 22:41

As you already said:

Spinach is my least favourite vegetable.

There's nothing wrong with that and it's perfectly understandable.

On the other hand:

Spinach is the vegetable I don't like the most.

Even though this is understandable, it does not sound natural simply because nobody uses that phrasing.

A more natural version would be:

Spinach is the vegetable I dislike the most.

In this particular sentence construction, dislike is preferable to don't like. (Although don't like can be used in other constructions without a problem.)

The reason behind this is that when we use a comparative term, it's in conjunction with a single word rather than with a word and its negation.

These sound natural:

The most likely.
The greatest strength.
The least weak.

These alternate versions sound strange:

The least not unlikely.
The greatest not weakness.
The least not strong.

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  • "does not sound natural simply because nobody uses that phrasing" --- thank you for elucidating the conundrum for me. __________________ I know about "least favorable" as a way of rendering the same concept, but my brain raised on a heavy gruel of Russian as my native tongue, wants to say "I don't like the most" anyway. however, no matter how 'natural' ""I don't like the most" " may sound for me personally, on a level of intuition I nevertheless had a hunch that it might not be compliant with language sensitivities of native English speakers thank you – Evgeny Jul 25 '18 at 22:42

Spinach is the vegetable I hate the most.

You can hate something the most, you can't not like something the most.

To like the most (dislike the most, like the least) is parallel to To hate the most (and love the most, hate the least)

And that's the skinny on that.

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It really depends on what you mean. When you say least favorable, does that mean you still eat it but avoid it as much as possible? Or did you mean no way will you eat it, even if it is the only food left in the world? If you were more than the former, then you would say it's the least you like (because you would still it if there were no other choice).

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