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I'm in the process of filling in the "About me" section on another SE site. When I was reading/reviewing it before posting, I noticed a construct that I had used and that I'm not entirely sure is correct, but seems to me most appropriate in that context.

Here's a snippet of the sentence I had written, followed by my question and reasoning:

... But ultimately, I had to come back to the thing I was most good at ...

Is the use of "most good" ever correct?

I know most good is just a dumb way of saying best, but I don't feel like best is the best option in this context (not even the "most good" option). Using best here, at least to me, sounds like I'm the best at the thing, implying that I'm better than other people are at that thing (for clarity's sake, that thing is programming.)

What I meant by writing that sentence is that out of all the things I did, programming was the one I was the most good at. I think using best would lose the intended meaning of the sentence. So that's why I chose most good instead of best, and now I just want to know whether or not it's correct to use (grammatically or otherwise).

In school when we were learning English, most good was often used as a joke to point out someone's bad English. Google search was pretty much useless as usual, the closest to a "definition" was an urban-dictionary entry, which funnily enough gave the same definition that I used here. A search on the ELU site didn't yield much either, so I'd appreciate any help.

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  • Under some circumstances, it doesn't sound bad (like this one). I'm sure many circumstances it sounds awful though. "You're dong the most good you can do" where 'good' is meant as a noun, is very acceptable sounding. 'gooder' and 'goodest' are awful no matter what. – Mitch May 22 at 21:09
  • Best at does not mean the best at, in the same way that my best friend is not the best friend in the world - just the best of my friends. – Juhasz May 22 at 21:26
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    I see where you're going, but I'd still use best. – Isabel Archer May 22 at 21:29
  • In my situation, a simple comment is the option that does the most good. – Davo May 22 at 21:39
  • @Davo I take it that I should maybe reword the question a bit? I meant "good" as an adjective and not a noun, but didn't clarify that anywhere because I thought it'd be clear enough from the context. – matronator May 22 at 21:56
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The word good can be used as three different parts of speech. Noun, adjective, and adverb.

It's used adjectivally most often.

This soup is good.

It's less frequently used as a noun.

I do this for the common good.

And, the adverbial use is largely informal, typically used in place of the more formal well.

I didn't sleep very good last night. I didn't sleep very well last night.

When using the modifier most in front of good, it's usually found when good is used as a noun.

He preferred to donate money where he thought it would do the most good.

The usage of most in front of adverbial good will tend to sound EXTREMELY informal. (In fact, to my ear it has a dialectical quality to it that makes me think of Southern US English.)

I sleep most good on my side.

The majority of people would substitute the word best for this usage.

Unfortunately, despite what many people will tell you, there is no such thing as correct when it comes to language. Language is a tool that intends to express ideas in a manner that other people can understand. Therefore, if you are able to communicate your idea in an understandable way, it is correct. There is, to my knowledge, no single compendium of the English language and its grammatical rules that can be pointed to as authoritative above all else. There are many manuals of style that purport to tell you how best to write and speak. But, again, these represent mere suggestions of propriety.

So, instead, we rely upon perceived formality and propriety to dictate our best usage. The result is that certain usages become preferred to others due to their perception as "correct" in common usage. Phrases tend to cycle in and out of favor despite their correctness.

So the short answer: Yes, it can be used correctly. But, no that doesn't guarantee that it will be perceived as formal.

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  • Regardless of whether or not the concept of "correct" exists, hearing someone use "good" as an adverb makes my skin crawl. – Isabel Archer May 23 at 0:33
  • @IsabelArcher Skin crawl aside, it's still not wrong. It's just not what you prefer. – David M May 23 at 0:35
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    As I recall, @David M, that is exactly what I said. It is distinctly what I do not prefer. – Isabel Archer May 23 at 0:47
  • A lot of this is irrelevant (especially following OP's 'I meant "good" as an adjective and not a noun, but didn't clarify that anywhere because I thought it'd be clear enough from the context'). And you fail to address the actual question, the use of 'most good' for adjectival 'best': the thing I'm good / excellent / poor / worst / best / ??most good at. – Edwin Ashworth May 23 at 13:29

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