Possible Duplicate:
Do I need to put “the” before “most” in this sentence?

I've always thought you need the definite article 'the' before the superlative of an adjective, except when the comparison is made within the same subject: The swimming pool is deepest here.

Some people say 2 is the more idiomatic. Is this true?

  1. The most tuna are caught in early November.
  2. Most tuna are caught in early November.
  • 1
    "Most" is not a superlative, so the examples aren't appropriate. Now if you said "The biggest tuna...", yes, "the" is required. You might be able to say "Biggest tuna..." but it sounds awkward to me (native AE speaker).
    – mkennedy
    Jan 9, 2012 at 4:36
  • I thought here 'most' is the superlative of 'many.'...
    – Sssamy
    Jan 9, 2012 at 5:16
  • I would say 'all' is the superlative of 'most' or 'many.'
    – mkennedy
    Jan 9, 2012 at 5:25
  • It seems the above thread deals with 'most,' the superlative modifier of 'common,' although the present thread inquires if the superlative of 'many' needs 'the.' I'd appreciate if you would help me with it.
    – Sssamy
    Jan 9, 2012 at 7:20
  • 2
    @jwpat7 Although the answer is very similar, the question is different, since it is coming from a different direction. This question is based on the, incorrect, assumption that the two sentences mean the same thing, the correction of assumption that also answers the question that referred to. For this reason, I would say that this is not a duplicate. Jan 9, 2012 at 17:15

1 Answer 1


These say two different things.

The most tuna are caught in early November.

This means more tuna is caught in early November than any other comparable time frame. Here, 'most' is a superlative meaning "the amount that is greatest". It means the quantity of tuna caught in early November is greater than anything comparable, which would be tuna caught during other comparable time frames.

Most tuna are caught in early November.

This means that the majority of tuna that are caught are caught in early November. Here, 'most' is an intensifier meaning "more than half".

So, for example:

The most births occur in August and September

This is true, more births occur in those months than any other comparable time frame.

Most births occur in August and Septmeber.

This is false. In fact, most births occur in the other 10 months.

  • 1
    Sadly, this answer is unacceptable. 'Intensifiers', as the linked Wikipedia article clearly explains, modify (with intensification; contrast 'downtoners' such as 'slightly', 'fairly') other modifiers (adjectives / adverbs), as in 'It was very cold', 'She was frighteningly penetrating', 'He was most charming'. An intensifier role for 'most' in 'most tuna' is impossible; it would be a close synonym of 'extremely tuna'. // Obviously, 'He is most charming' (intensifier usage) and 'He is the most charming' (perhaps in answer to "Who is the most charming man here?" contain different ... May 18, 2018 at 9:33
  • usages of 'most'. The second is the periphrastic superlative construction. // With 'Most tuna are caught in early November' 'most' is a quantifier. But this sentence is ambiguous: it is not clear if the scope of 'most' is 'the whole catch over the year/s' (ie over 50% of all tuna caught) or 'in comparison with the other 11 1/2 months (say)'. Think of a bar chart, and the question 'In which month are most / the most sardines caught?' May 18, 2018 at 9:41
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth Re the terminology, besides 'superlative', it's called 'proportional quantifier' in CaGEL.
    – JK2
    May 21, 2018 at 4:35

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