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My English-native brain is struggling to understand why 一番 is used with たくさん and 多い in sentences like these:

  1. 彼が一番たくさんのお金を持っている。
  2. 彼女が一番多いの食べ物を持っている。

I'm probably thinking about it wrong, but the first one reads to me like, "He has the most of a lot of money," and the second, "She has the most of a lot of food." In English, using two quantifiers ("most" and "a lot") to describe something this way seems very unnatural. Why wouldn't you just say「一番のお金」or「一番の食べ物」? Do you always need an auxiliary quantifier when using 一番 as a superlative?

I consulted this Japanese language English lesson that explains to Japanese speakers how to say things like this in English, but my Japanese isn't good enough to know if it even really addresses my question.

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In English, "most" works both as an adjective (i.e, a noun modifier) and as an adverb (i.e., a verb/adjective modifier). Compare the following sentences:

  1. He has the most money.
  2. He is the most honest person.
  3. He ran the most.

You can see "most" is adjectivally modifying a noun ("money") in 1, adverbially modifying an adjective ("honest") in 2, and adverbially modifying a verb ("ate") in 3.


How about 一番? It also works both as a no-adjective and as an adverb. However, when it works as a no-adjective, it means "best" rather than "most"! When it works as an adverb, it works exactly like English "most" as an adverb.

  1. 彼が一番の戦士だ。
    He is the best warrior.
    (一番 is adjectivally modifying the noun 戦士)
  2. 彼が一番正直な人だ。
    He is the most honest person.
    (一番 is adverbially modifying the na-adjective 正直な)
  3. 彼が一番走った。
    He ran the most.
    (一番 is adverbially modifying the adverb 走った)

Let's see your examples. 一番のお金 means "best money" rather than "most money", and 一番の食べ物 means "best(-quality) food" rather than "most food" in Japanese. To say "most (something)", you have to insert another adjective like たくさん or 多い, which means "abundant". With this, 一番多い食べ物 means "most (abundant) food". Note that 一番 is working as an adverb now.

You can also say 彼が一番お金を持っている without たくさん. In this case, 一番 is an adverb (because there is no の), so it directly modifies 持っている.

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  • Thanks! When you put it that way, it seems really obvious. I don't know why I didn't realize it sooner.
    – Jon
    Jun 11 '20 at 7:21
  • I don't think anyone can explain that better than you did @naruto - you deserve a standing ovation! :)
    – kevinMario
    Jun 11 '20 at 9:37
  • As expected of the Seventh Hokage...
    – rebuuilt
    Jun 11 '20 at 10:10

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