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I don't understand why the definite article is not used in front of the superlative and why we don't use the preposition "to" as in:

  1. Which planet is the nearest to Earth?

instead of

  1. Which planet is nearest Earth?
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    We usually say, "Which planet is nearest to the Earth?" – Kaushik Mar 26 at 7:58
  • @Kaushik please avoid giving inaccurate information. It is absolutely not true that "we" usually use to with any superlative. "They are the best band to the world"? No. – Mari-Lou A Mar 26 at 8:08
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    It's not true that 'we' don't say Which planet is the nearest to Earth?. I would consider that to be better grammatically, but all three versions (yours and Kaushik's) are possible. – Kate Bunting Mar 26 at 9:32
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    I don't commonly see "Which planet is nearest to THE Earth?" at all. (My emphasis on "the" from Kaushik's comment.) I've seen "Which planet is nearest Earth?" and "Which planet is the nearest to Earth?" – ElG Mar 26 at 17:21
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Both sentences are correct. They express different ideas. The sentences revolve around the use of the word "nearest." In the first sentence, "nearest" is functioning as a predicate adjective. In the second sentence "nearest" is functioning as a noun which is being modified by the article "the."

It is possible to omit "to" and still have a grammatical sentence: "Which planet is the nearest earth." It sounds strange but if we substitute "one" for "earth," it forms a sentence which doesn't sound strange; "Which planet is the nearest one?" In this sentence, "one" is an adjunct.

Something being grammatical and making sense are frequently two different things.

Also, note that "earth" can either have "the" as an article, which designates it as a planet, or not, which is giving it a name, Earth. For example, "Which woman is nearest Michael?" (some speakers will say "Which woman is closest to Michael.") "Michael" is a proper noun and doesn't need "the." Grammatically-speaking it is not incorrect to say "Which woman is closest to the Michael," but it is not something English speakers say because the usage is not recognized as making sense and isn't supported by the corpus. Earth is a proper noun that can use "the."

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