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    #1

    comparatively vs incomparably

    One of my last exam questions in the word formation section:

    "Her later book, though _______ (compare) better than her earlier ones, did not give widespread satisfaction."

    My answer choice is "comparatively". However, some of my friends and my teacher says that "incomparably" is the best answer, and simply cross out my answer. I think it will be fair if both answer is considered correct, right? Please help me. Thank you very much
    Last edited by Cường David; 26-Apr-2015 at 13:47.

  1. Matthew Wai's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: comparatively vs incomparably

    I think 'better than' already carries the meaning of comparison, so 'comparatively' is redundant.

    Not a teacher.

  2. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: comparatively vs incomparably

    I don't think either of those choices are great.
    I agree that "comparably better" is not good, but how can you say it's "incomparably better" and then say it's not very good?
    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. Matthew Wai's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: comparatively vs incomparably

    Perhaps it was incomparably better than the terribly awful ones.

    Not a teacher.

  4. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: comparatively vs incomparably

    Quote Originally Posted by Cường David View Post
    One of my last exam questions in the word formation section:

    "Her later book, though _______ (compare) better than her earlier ones, did not give widespread satisfaction."

    My answer choice is "comparatively". However, some of my friends and my teacher say that "incomparably" is the better [best implies three or more choices.] answer, and the teacher simply crossed out my answer. I think it would be fair for both answers to be considered correct, right? Please help me. Thank you very much.
    Right!

    I agree with the folks above that the sentence is fine without another word. However, the assignment was to use a word rooted in the word compare. And you did.

    And you're right: both are absolutely fine. But they mean two different things.

    Comparatively better implies that none is a great book but that this one is better than the others - relatively better.

    Incomparably better is high praise: this book is so much better that it can't be compared, there is no comparison, it's in an entirely different class.

    So both adjectives add your opinion of the quality of the book. The difference is that the first opinion is restrained, while the second is enthusiastic.
    Last edited by Charlie Bernstein; 27-Apr-2015 at 20:28.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

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