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    #1

    improve?

    Dear Teacher,

    Linguistically speaking, can you ‘improve’ something that has negative connotations?
    The examples below illustrate what I mean by this question.

    “He has improved his golf score.”
    (This sounds just fine to me; “golf score” is a neutral term)

    “His poor English has improved.”
    (I have heard similar expressions many times and it sounds natural, even though “poor English” is a negative term. I think the sentence implies that his English has improved but is still poor.)

    “Her disease has improved after the administration of the drug.”
    (Now I start to feel unsure. “Disease” is a negative term. “Her health has improved...” would be perfectly fine.)

    “The murder rate in New York City has improved”
    (I don’t think this is a good English. You cannot tell whether this was spoken by the mayor (who wants less murders) or by the mafia boss (who wants more murders).)

    “This technology will improve the disturbance in the transmission signal.”
    (I feel positively uncomfortable with this sentence, because “disturbance” is a negative term.)

    “This technology will improve the disturbance problem in the transmission signal.”
    (I think this is better than the above, but I’m still not sure.)

    (I realize that there are transitive and intransitive 'improve' in the above examples but I don't think that's an important point. My quesition applies to both.)

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    #2

    Re: improve?

    I agree with all your interpretations, Ju1ian.

    Rover

  1. Raymott's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: improve?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ju1ian View Post
    “Her disease has improved after the administration of the drug.”
    (Now I start to feel unsure. “Disease” is a negative term. “Her health has improved...” would be perfectly fine.)
    This is quite acceptable. "Her asthma has improved since she moved out of the city."

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    #4

    Re: improve?

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    This is quite acceptable. "Her asthma has improved since she moved out of the city."
    But isn't there any situation where this sentence would be ambiguous?

    I figure it means that she is feeling better since she moved, her health improved. But isn't there any chance for one to interpret it as 'her disease has improved' in the sense that the asthma itself has become stronger?

  2. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: improve?

    I don't feel that there is ambiguity at all. When something improves, it gets better than it was before. Something negative that improves is less negative. It's not the same as "increase" and there would never be a misunderstanding on my part.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  3. Raymott's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: improve?

    Quote Originally Posted by Abstract Idea View Post
    But isn't there any situation where this sentence would be ambiguous?
    None.

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