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    #1

    it could be better

    --When shall we hold the meeting?
    --It ______ be better to put it off until next week.

    A. must B. could C. can D. will

    This was one of the test items in my test paper. The given answer is B. But I thought B, C, and D are all fine and 'will' sounds best to me. If there had been 'would', I would have thought that 'would' was the best choice.

    Am I right? Could I ask native speakers to help me please? Thank you in advance.

  1. bhaisahab's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: it could be better

    Quote Originally Posted by joham View Post
    --When shall we hold the meeting?
    --It ______ be better to put it off until next week.

    A. must B. could C. can D. will

    This was one of the test items in my test paper. The given answer is B. But I thought B, C, and D are all fine and 'will' sounds best to me. If there had been 'would', I would have thought that 'would' was the best choice.

    Am I right? Could I ask native speakers to help me please? Thank you in advance.
    "Could" is correct, "can" and "will" can't be used in that sentence, a case could be made for "must" though, with an exclamation mark at the end.


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    #3

    Re: it could be better

    Quote Originally Posted by joham View Post
    --When shall we hold the meeting?
    --It ______ be better to put it off until next week.

    A. must B. could C. can D. will

    This was one of the test items in my test paper. The given answer is B. But I thought B, C, and D are all fine and 'will' sounds best to me. If there had been 'would', I would have thought that 'would' was the best choice.

    Am I right? Could I ask native speakers to help me please? Thank you in advance.
    It is correct to use B. could or D. will.

    I would not use "must" or "can" here. There's no justification for using "must" given what "must" means, and "can" is not logical because anything, in this sense, "can be".

    Using "could" makes the sentence sound like a suggestion. Using "will" makes the sentence like the speaker strongly feels or believes this is the best thing to do. Also, using "will" can make it sound like the speaker is the decision maker, or the one in charge or responsible.

  2. Raymott's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: it could be better

    Quote Originally Posted by joham View Post
    --When shall we hold the meeting?
    --It ______ be better to put it off until next week.

    A. must B. could C. can D. will

    This was one of the test items in my test paper. The given answer is B. But I thought B, C, and D are all fine and 'will' sounds best to me. If there had been 'would', I would have thought that 'would' was the best choice.

    Am I right? Could I ask native speakers to help me please? Thank you in advance.
    You could make a case for any of these answers.
    "It could be better" is not a very common English collocation.
    "It might be better..." is more common for this meaning.
    "It would be better" is common, but has a different meaning.

  3. bhaisahab's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: it could be better

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    You could make a case for any of these answers.
    "It could be better" is not a very common English collocation.
    "It might be better..." is more common for this meaning.
    "It would be better" is common, but has a different meaning.
    What about "must" Ray? "It must be better!"
    I'm sorry (I mean that, because I hate to disagree with you) but "it could be better" is a very common English collocation.


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    #6

    Re: it could be better

    Quote Originally Posted by bhaisahab View Post
    What about "must" Ray? "It must be better!"
    I'm sorry (I mean that, because I hate to disagree with you) but "it could be better" is a very common English collocation.
    Although I do respect your opinion, I must say that I don't think that using "must" is very logical, nor likely, in the sentence in question.
    Last edited by PROESL; 19-Oct-2009 at 04:53.


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    #7

    Re: it could be better

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    You could make a case for any of these answers.
    "It could be better" is not a very common English collocation.
    "It might be better..." is more common for this meaning.
    "It would be better" is common, but has a different meaning.

    "It could be better" is not a very common English collocation.
    There is nothing at all uncommon about the phrase "It could be better".

    "It might be better..." is more common for this meaning.
    What meaning would you be speaking of? If one says "It might be better", then this indicates a possibility that is not as strong as "It may be better". If one says "It could be better" then this indicates a neutral possibility, or the speaker would be expressing an opinion or making a suggestion.

    What do you think of my cover letter?
    It could be better. I'll take a closer look at it tommorow and make some suggestions. - opinion

    What do you think of my cover letter?
    It could be a bit too long. - possibility and opinion

    What do you think of my cover letter?
    It might be better to shorten it. - possibility and opinion

    What happened at the interview?
    They might call me back for another one next week. - possibility - also, an opinion based on information that the speaker has
    Last edited by PROESL; 19-Oct-2009 at 15:21.


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    #8

    Re: it could be better

    Quote Originally Posted by bhaisahab View Post
    What about "must" Ray? "It must be better!"
    I'm sorry (I mean that, because I hate to disagree with you) .
    Now doesn't that just capture the essence of academia?

    Of course 'must' is a possibility, B, but the context that would make it sound okay is lacking.

    --When shall we hold the meeting?
    -- [snidely] It ______ be better to put it off until next week.

    A. must B. could C. can D. will

    With the given context, either B or D.

    With [snidely] added, [or other appropriate contexts] must would be the best choice.

    'can' isn't [ever ??] used for expressing one time possibilities. For those we use may, might, could.

    A: The money's missing.

    B: #Jeff can have it. #

    B: Jeff may/might/could have it.

    'can' is used for expressing general possibility.

    It can rain there in the fall.

    Las Vegas can be a gigantic bore.

  4. Raymott's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: it could be better

    Quote Originally Posted by PROESL View Post
    There is nothing at all uncommon about the phrase "It could be better".

    What meaning would you be speaking of?
    I mean the meaning that it's possibly better to put it off.
    "It could be better" and "It might be better" both mean that it's possibly better, whereas "It would be better" doesn't mean this.
    I probably overstated the uncommonness of "It could be better". It's more common where I come from to say "It might be better".

    If one says "It might be better", then this indicates a possibility that is not as strong as "It may be better".
    No, that's a prescriptionist furphy about 'might' and 'may' being used for different levels of probability. We've discussed this before, and I don't think it's necessary to rerun that thread again so soon.

    If one says "It could be better" then this indicates a neutral possibility, or the speaker would be expressing an opinion or making a suggestion.

    What do you think of my cover letter?
    It could be better. I'll take a closer look at it tommorow and make some suggestions. - opinion

    Yes, that is a different meaning from the one I had in mind. Modal verbs can have several meanings, which is why I said that case could be made for each of them.
    R.


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    #10

    Re: it could be better

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    R.


    There is nothing at all uncommon about the phrase "It could be better".

    What meaning would you be speaking of?
    I mean the meaning that it's possibly better to put it off.
    "It could be better" and "It might be better" both mean that it's possibly better, whereas "It would be better" doesn't mean this.
    I probably overstated the uncommonness of "It could be better". It's more common where I come from to say "It might be better". << I agree. However, "could be better" can indicate a suggestion, opinion, and a possibiltiy, whereas "might be better" does not, necessarily, indicate a suggestion. I would say "might be better" is more of an uncertain prediction, as in "maybe it will". Saying "could be better" merely indicates a neutral possibility or a suggestion. These are subtle distinctions, nonetheless I would say they're justified in the context of ESL-EFL. I understand you may see it differently, however.

    If one says "It might be better", then this indicates a possibility that is not as strong as "It may be better".
    No, that's a prescriptionist furphy about 'might' and 'may' being used for different levels of probability. We've discussed this before, and I don't think it's necessary to rerun that thread again so soon. << I understand your view, and I've read it and heard it in other places. However, I feel compelled to say that might and may indicate different levels of possibility indeed. I haven't the time to explain and provide examples. However, they do indeed indicate different levels of probability. This is easily noticed simply by observing usage, which is something I make a habit of doing. As well, reference guides and usage notes in a number of respected publications support this. But as I said, I don't have time to start posting all the evidence.

    If one says "It could be better" then this indicates a neutral possibility, or the speaker would be expressing an opinion or making a suggestion.

    What do you think of my cover letter?
    It could be better. I'll take a closer look at it tommorow and make some suggestions. - opinion

    Yes, that is a different meaning from the one I had in mind. Modal verbs can have several meanings, which is why I said that case could be made for each of them. . Agreed. The manner in which we apply meaning to modal auxiliaries changes with the context.

    Beyond this, I would say it's safe to say that we can, or should, agree to disagree. I understand your view, and you understand mine. Though we do not agree in certain areas, we seem to agree in some areas regarding modal auxiliary use and meaning.

    (The type remains slanted, unless I retype it.)
    Last edited by PROESL; 20-Oct-2009 at 03:53.

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