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When should one use the/a with BEST?

1 Is there a best way to live your life?
2 Is there the best way to live your life?

3 What is the best way to live your life?
4 What is a best way to live your life?

5 There is the best way to live your life.
6 There is a best way to live your life.

7 That morning she did the best time of 21 seconds.
8 That morning she did a best time of 21 seconds.

Original Post

Hi, Me_IV,

"there is" usually requires an indefinite article (except with lists of items), so only (1) and (6) work. In both cases, "best" means "ideal." In the mentioned sentences, we can of course also use "better," though with a different meaning. I think (5) can work if "there" is not a pronoun but an deictic adverb, meaning that one is the best way to live your life.

@Me_IV posted:

1 Is there a best way to live your life?
2 Is there the best way to live your life?

5 There is the best way to live your life.
6 There is a best way to live your life.

In the other cases, "the" is required to express absolute superlative in (3) and in the last pair I think both "the" and "a" can be used depending on whether the record achieved is considered absolute or relative.

@Me_IV posted:

3 What is the best way to live your life?
4 What is a best way to live your life?

7 That morning she did the best time of 21 seconds.
8 That morning she did a best time of 21 seconds.

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