All About “Most”

By Mark Nichol

Most is a grammatically versatile word employed in references to amounts, quantities, and degree. This post discusses its use as various parts of speech.

Most, deriving from Old English and related to more, serves as an adjective pertaining to extent (as in “The most support comes from the Midwest”) or the majority (“Most of his supporters are in the Midwest”). Note the distinction between general and specific discussion: Compare “Most households have more than one television” (general) with “Most of the city’s households have more than one television” (specific). As an adjective suffix, it applies to something that most completely or extensively displays a characteristic, appearing in such words as foremost and hindmost, meaning, respectively, “farthest forward” and “farthest behind.”

As an adverb, most performs a similar function, except that it modifies adjectives. When it means “to the greatest degree,” it is preceded by the, as in “He found it to be the most rewarding job he had had to date.” When the meaning is “to a great degree,” the is omitted, as in “His current job is most rewarding.” It can also modify another adverb, as in the phrase “most certainly.” In addition, most is sometimes employed as a variant of almost to modify such words as all, anyone, anywhere, and always, as in “You will find that happens most everywhere,” but this usage is considered informal.

Most is also a noun meaning “the greatest amount,” as in sentences such as “It’s the most I can do” and “You gave him the most of all,” and in the phrases “at most” and “at the most” (which are interchangeable), as in “It will take her two or three days at most.” As a pronoun, it means “the greatest number or part,” as in “Most would agree.”

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1 Response to “All About “Most””

  • Dale A. Wood

    There is a junior college in Brownsville, Texas, called Texas Southmost College. For a long time, this one was integrated with the Univ. of Texas at Brownsville. Then several years ago, that university merged with some other state universities down there to become the Univ. of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Texas Southmost College was cast off into independent existence again as a community college.
    Texas has a few other schools with peculiar names like these, including the Univ. of Texas Permian Basin. That one serves the oil-producing region centered around Midland and Odessa, Texas.
    Thus, the UT Permian Basin is north of the Rio Grande Valley, east of El Paso (UTEP), south of Lubbock (Texas Tech), west of Austin (UT main campus), and northwest of San Antonio (UT-San Antonio).
    From this point-of-view:
    UT-El Paso is Texas Westmost Univ.,
    Texas Tech is Texas Northmost Univ.,
    East Texas State Univ. is Texas Eastmost Univ., and UT-Rio Grande Valley is Texas Southmost Univ.
    Now, if they could just get organized!
    It is also true that the North Texas State Univ.,
    East Texas State Univ., and the Univ. of Texas at Arlington were all in the Dallas Metropolitan area, for all practical purposes.

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