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Is It Correct to Say “Most Especially”?

In English, we encounter many phrases that spark debate among linguists and academics alike. What one expert might consider acceptable, another grammarian might declare taboo. The term “most especially” falls into this gray area. So, is it reasonable to use?

It is correct to say “most especially” in informal spoken English; however, you should avoid it in formal and informal writing. “Most especially” is an adverb phrase we use to indicate that something is unusually extraordinary or deserving of attention. For example, “I enjoyed the entire meal, most especially the meatloaf.” 

While saying “most especially” is not grammatically incorrect, we consider it too redundant to use in formal speech or writing in American English. British English speakers use the phrase far more often.

What Does “Most Especially” Mean?

“Most especially” is an adverb phrase that means something is worthy of special attention or exceeds all other considerations. Saying something is “especially” a certain way is to say it is exceptionally so. Adding the superlative adverb “most” takes that statement to the utmost level (source).

An adverb phrase is a group of two or more words acting together adverbially to modify another part, or all, of a sentence. In this case, “most especially” comprises two adverbs. 

“Especially” changes what is being said by explaining to what extent or degree. It is generally accepted to mean “above all.” We use it to make a comparison and show that what we are saying is more true of one person, place, or thing than any others we might consider (source).

“Most” takes that a step further. When we say “most especially,” we say that the statement is true to the highest possible level. However, since “especially” already means something is true above all else, adding the adverb “most” is a bit redundant.

We use “most especially” as a comparison to indicate that something is particularly so.

  • She is most especially skilled at playing the piano.
  • The sunset is most especially beautiful this evening.

However, you can see how the meaning of these sentences does not change when the word “most” is eliminated.

  • She is especially skilled at playing the piano.
  • The sunset is especially beautiful this evening.

We also use “most especially” to show that someone or something clearly stands out above the rest.

  • He enjoys all types of travel, but he most especially loves all-inclusive excursions.
  • The entire cast was spectacular, most especially the actress who played Cosette.

Again, you can see how the elimination of the word “most” does nothing to change the meaning of the sentence.

  • He enjoys all types of travel, but he especially loves all-inclusive excursions.
  • The entire cast was spectacular, especially the actress who played Cosette.

How Do You Use “Most Especially”?

We use “most especially” only in informal spoken English. You might say someone is “most especially talented” or something is “most especially distinct.” However, the phrase sounds unnatural and redundant to most American English speakers.

Image by Q K via Pixabay

Let’s consider the progression of degrees when we add the word “especially” and when we upgrade to the more superlative “most especially.”

  • This math homework is difficult.
  • This math homework is especially difficult.
  • This math homework is most especially difficult.

Although all three sentences are grammatically correct, the first two sound much more natural than the third. Note how adding the word “most” does not change the sentence’s meaning. In fact, it even reads a bit overly dramatic since this math homework probably isn’t technically the most challenging homework in existence.

Using “Most Especially” in a Full Sentence

“Most especially” is an adverb phrase, which means the words come together to act as a single adverb. Adverbs can modify or intensify a verb, an adjective, another adverb, or an entire sentence.

Because adverbs and adverb phrases serve such a multi-purpose function, you would not be incorrect in using “most especially” in any part of a sentence. Here are some examples.

  • Most especially, I think you would enjoy a course in flower arranging.
  • I most especially enjoyed the dessert course.
  • I thoroughly enjoyed my evening, most especially the conversation.
  • Of all the Russian authors I’ve read, I loved Tolstoy most especially.

You should separate “most especially” with a comma when it creates a phrase that is not essential to the rest of the sentence. In other words, if the sentence would have basically the same meaning without the phrase beginning “most especially,” it needs a comma or two.

  • I found the entire event, most especially the Q&A session, to be very informative.
  • I most especially enjoyed the Q&A session at the end of the event.
  • I despise winter, most especially the cold mornings.
  • I hate winter in general, but I hate the cold mornings most especially.

When Can You Use “Most Especially”?

As mentioned, we reserve “most especially” mainly for informal spoken English. In fact, many American English speakers use this phrase when they want to sound overly dramatic.

Read the following examples and consider how they might sound appropriate among friends but improper to use in a formal setting.

  • You are most especially annoying today.
  • Q: “Do you like my lasagna better?” A: “Most especially!”
  • Q: “How was your workout?” A: “Most especially exhausting.”

When you use “most especially” in informal speech, don’t confuse it with “most specially.” While the two have similar definitions, their meaning is slightly different. 

On a basic level, both phrases can mean “particularly.” However, when we say “most especially,” we make it clear that there is another option of lesser quality. “Most specially” doesn’t necessarily indicate that another option is inferior.

One easy trick for determining whether “most especially” is correct is to substitute the word “exceptionally” for “especially.” If the sentence still makes sense, then “most especially” is the right option.

  • Incorrect: I chose this book most especially exceptionally for you.
  • Correct: I think you’ll like this movie most especially exceptionally well.

When Not to Use “Most Especially”

As mentioned, American English speakers use “most especially” only in informal spoken English – and rarely at that. As a result, you shouldn’t use it in writing, especially in formal or academic settings. While the phrase is not grammatically incorrect, it sounds redundant and unnatural.

Image by ottawagraphics via Pixabay

We consider a word to be redundant when it appears unnecessarily or in excess of what’s needed to make your point. Since the word “especially” already means something is true above all other options, you don’t need the superlative adverb “most.”

Consider the following statement if we substitute the words’ definitions for the words themselves.

  • I felt her performance was most especially brilliant tonight.
  • I felt her performance was, to the greatest extent above all, brilliant tonight. 

If using “most especially” equates to saying “most exceptionally,” then using “most specially” is the same as saying “most specifically.” So if you’re trying to say something has a distinct purpose without necessarily comparing it to something less important, use “most specially.”

You can use the same trick as before and substitute “specifically” for “specially.” If the sentence’s meaning doesn’t change, then “most specially” is the correct phrase to use. See these examples (source).

  • Correct: I chose tonight’s menu most specially specifically for you.
  • Incorrect: I think you look most specially specifically stunning this evening.

What Can You Use Instead of “Most Especially”?

We discussed the use of “most specially” when that’s the correct phrase to use. However, it is not a synonym for “most especially.” The most straightforward answer to what we can use instead of “most especially” is “especially.” 

  • The water is most especially clear today.
  • I’m feeling most especially drowsy from the medication.

“Most” is the superlative adverb we commonly use to express something to the highest degree. Unfortunately, it has few synonyms that carry meaning close to what we mean when saying “most especially.” See how much more unnatural these phrases sound.

  • Exceedingly exceptionally
  • Remarkably exceptionally
  • Extremely exceptionally

Let’s also consider some synonyms for “especially” to see if they fit better.

  • Most chiefly
  • Most exclusively
  • Most outstandingly

Again, these phrases, while not grammatically incorrect, are redundant. The word “most” is unnecessary and can be easily omitted in each of the above examples. The only acceptable synonym for “most especially” that is generally accepted in the English language is “most notably.”

  • The speakers were all excellent, most notably Dr. Williamson.
  • The findings were shocking, most notably the link between obesity and depression.

Comparative and Superlative Adverbs

Adverbs are words or phrases that modify another part of a sentence. We use adverbs to modify a verb, adjective, or even another adverb. They express details like time, manner, degree, place, frequency, and purpose. 

Here are some common examples.

  • He runs fast.
  • She sings well.
  • They are waiting quietly.

A comparative adverb compares two actions to show something is more true about one person or thing than the other.

  • He runs faster than Jimmy.
  • She sings better than Sara.
  • They are waiting more quietly than this morning’s audience.

Superlative adverbs compare three or more actions to show that something is more true about one person or thing than any others (source).

  • He runs the fastest of all the boys in his class.
  • She sings the best of anyone in school.
  • They are waiting the most quietly of any audience so far.

English has some general rules for how we create comparative and superlative adverbs. For adverbs containing one syllable, we add “-er” to form the comparative and “-est” to form the superlative. If the word already ends with an “e,” only the “-r” and “-st” are needed.

Note how we often follow the comparative adverbs by the word “than” and the superlative adverbs by “the.”

AdverbComparative FormSuperlative Form
Raspberries are sweet.Raspberries are sweeter than strawberries. Raspberries are the sweetest berry of all.
Kittens are cute.Kittens are cuter than puppies.Kittens are the cutest baby animals.

For adverbs with more than one syllable, including those ending in “-ly,” we form the comparative adverb by adding “more” before it. We add “most” to create the superlative.

AdverbComparative FormSuperlative Form
BrightlyMore brightlyMost brightly
SlowlyMore slowlyMost slowly

As is often the case in English, some words don’t like to follow the rules. Here are a few common adverbs that use entirely different words in the comparative and superlative forms.

AdverbComparative FormSuperlative Form

For more reading on tricky adverb phrases, you might enjoy Is It Correct to Say “More Easily”? and Is It Correct to Say “Much Fewer”?

Final Thoughts

In summary, it is grammatically correct to say “most especially.” However, we suggest avoiding it in written American English, especially in academic or formal settings. Instead, save it for casual conversations with friends, mainly when a little bit of sarcasm is in order.