the best of

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the best of

Post by navi » Wed Oct 02, 2019 9:40 am

Which are correct:
1) That movie is the best of any science fiction movie that came out this year.
2) That movie is the best of all science fiction movies that came out this year.
Meaning: That movie is the best science fiction movie that came out this year.

3) That movie is the best of any science fiction.
4) That movie is the best of all science fiction movies.
Meaning: That movie is the best science fiction movie.

I definitely prefer the 'meaning' sentences and those are the ones I would use, but I was wondering if the others were grammatical.

Gratefully.
Navi
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Re: the best of

Post by Phil White » Fri Oct 04, 2019 1:49 pm

Sentence 2 (but not sentence 4) needs "the" after the word "all" (... best of all the science fiction movies ...). Otherwise, they are grammatical.

However, the distinction between "grammatical" and "correct" or "idiomatic" is somewhat spurious. The fact that something is "grammatical" does not mean that any native speaker would use it, neither does the fact that something is "ungrammatical" mean that it is wrong or not idiomatic.

Correctness and idiomaticity are determined by what people naturally say and understand, not by a more or less arbitrary set of grammatical rules. In this sense, all of your sentences 1 - 4 are wrong, irrespective of whether they are grammatical. The sentences you use to explain the meanings are correct (they also happen to be grammatical).

Increasingly, I find the entire notion of "grammaticality" deeply problematic. I am reminded of your recent post about the bus needing repairing. In Yorkshire, it would be perfectly okay to say "the bus needs repaired". In Yorkshire, this is both correct and grammatical. It is a part of the Yorkshire dialect. So if we accept that grammaticality differs across different dialects, why should we not also allow grammaticality to differ across ideolects as well? Many people, for instance, would regard "between you and I" as ungrammatical. But many, possibly most people in the UK use it. It is a part of the language, whether some of us like it or not. Even if it is not grammatical (which may be moot), it can hardly be described as "incorrect" when a very large proportion of people use it.

As I say, grammaticality and correctness are not the same thing, and I am increasingly suspicious of using grammaticality as a test for correctness.
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Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

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