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  1. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #21

    Re: You can do worse than ...

    Quote Originally Posted by raymondaliasapollyon View Post
    It is modeled on "He could do worse than marry Eleanor" in Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English. Somone told me "can do worse than V" and "could do worse than V" are freely interchangeable.
    I see. No, they are not freely interchangeable.

    Could "can do worse than V" be an imitation of "can do better than V"? (Does the latter make more sense than the former?)
    I don't quite understand the question. Imitation? There's little/no point in analysing these structures out of the context of use.

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    #22

    Re: You can do worse than ...

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    I see. No, they are not freely interchangeable.
    I reckon only those whose dialects use "can do worse than V," or those who have access to such speakers, could make that assessment.
    And it would be validated only if we could produce a scenario where "could do worse than V" and "can do worse than V" are not interchangeable, when both are used to make suggestions.

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    I don't quite understand the question. Imitation? There's little/no point in analysing these structures out of the context of use.
    Is "can do better than V" used to make a suggestion?

  3. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #23

    Re: You can do worse than ...

    Quote Originally Posted by raymondaliasapollyon View Post
    I reckon only those whose dialects use "can do worse than V," or those who have access to such speakers, could make that assessment.
    I doubt it's dialectic. What makes you think it might be? And what do you mean by 'access to such speakers'?

    And it would be validated only if we could produce a scenario where "could do worse than V" and "can do worse than V" are not interchangeable, when both are used to make suggestions.
    What would be validated? My statement that they're not interchangeable? I don't think we're on the same page now. Haven't we already done that? What I'm saying is that they're not interchangeable because they have a different meaning, even if they have the same use.

    Is "can do better than V" used to make a suggestion?
    Well, not easily, but it's not out of the question in principle, I suppose. Can you think how that might be? The only way I can think of using it is as in Charlie Bernstein's example in post #14.

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    #24

    Re: You can do worse than ...

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    What would be validated? My statement that they're not interchangeable? I don't think we're on the same page now. Haven't we already done that? What I'm saying is that they're not interchangeable because they have a different meaning, even if they have the same use.
    Would you determine the qualities of a dialect or idiolect by investigating people who don't speak that dialect or idiolect? I wouldn't. The issue in hand may be idioletic or dialectic, as there are speakers who don't use "can do worse than V" in the relevant sense at all . If we can find a live person who uses "can do worse than V" or who has the opportunity to consult speakers who use the expression , we can decide whether it is used in the same set of scenarios where other speakers would use "could do worse than V."

    If there is a scenario where only one form can be used, then the two forms are not interchangeable. But the premise is we need to find the aforementioned dialects or idiolects. I wouldn't validate the claim by referring to judgments of people who only use "could do worse than V." The latter's idiolects or dialects are different from those who do use "can do worse than V," and for this reason have little use in the investigation.


    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    Well, not easily, but it's not out of the question in principle, I suppose. Can you think how that might be? The only way I can think of using it is as in Charlie Bernstein's example in post #14.
    If John had a first date with Sarah that didn't go well and we think Sarah would not make a suitable partner for him, could we say to him, "You can do better than marry Sarah"? Is it natural in the dialects or idiolects of those who don't use "can do worse than V"?
    Last edited by raymondaliasapollyon; 23-May-2020 at 09:20.

  5. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #25

    Re: You can do worse than ...

    Quote Originally Posted by raymondaliasapollyon View Post
    I reckon only those whose dialects use "can do worse than V," . . . could make that assessment. . . .

    But neither "can do better" nor "could do better" is from anyone's dialect. The phrases are used in conversation throughout the US, and American English is not a dialect. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that other countries use both, as well.


    Is "can do better than V" used to make a suggestion?

    No. It's used to state an opinion.
    You're puzzling over an extremely minor point. Which one you use might depend on context. But no one would be gravely misled if you used one instead of the other.
    Last edited by Charlie Bernstein; 23-May-2020 at 20:42.
    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.

  6. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #26

    Re: You can do worse than ...

    Quote Originally Posted by raymondaliasapollyon View Post
    . . . If John had a first date with Sarah that didn't go well and we think Sarah would not make a suitable partner for him, could we say to him, "You can do better than marry Sarah"? Is it natural in the dialects or idiolects of those who don't use "can do worse than V"?
    If the first date didn't go well, I doubt anyone would be talking with John about marrying Sarah.

    But again, dialects and idiolects don't matter here.
    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.

  7. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #27

    Re: You can do worse than ...

    PS - Just for the fun of it, here's a Jamaican using can:

    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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    #28

    Re: You can do worse than ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    If the first date didn't go well, I doubt anyone would be talking with John about marrying Sarah.

    But again, dialects and idiolects don't matter here.
    What if Sarah has some desirable qualities that make John want to marry her, despite the dissatisfactory first date?
    How do you define dialect and idiolect?
    Last edited by raymondaliasapollyon; 24-May-2020 at 10:37.

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    #29

    Re: You can do worse than ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    But neither "can do better" nor "could do better" is from anyone's dialect. The phrases are used in conversation throughout the US, and American English is not a dialect. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that other countries use both, as well.
    American English is indeed a dialect, or rather a group of dialects. (There is the term "standard dialect," by the way.) I've met Americans who say they wouldn't use "can do worse than V."


    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    No. It's used to state an opinion.

    Stating an opinion is not incompatible with making a suggestion.
    Last edited by raymondaliasapollyon; 24-May-2020 at 02:25.

  10. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #30

    Re: You can do worse than ...

    Quote Originally Posted by raymondaliasapollyon View Post
    American English is indeed a dialect,

    I think of it as a language.

    or rather a group of dialects.

    Yes, it is.

    (There is the term "standard dialect," by the way.) I've met Americans who say they wouldn't use "can do worse than V."

    No doubt! Lots of Americans won't (and wouldn't) say a lot of things.


    Stating an opinion is not incompatible with making a suggestion.

    Opinions and suggestions often accompany each other. "You can do better than to marry Sarah" is an opinion. "So come meet my friend Lisa" is a suggestion.

    You may also feel that opinions sometimes imply suggestions. Yes, they do.
    Which idea are you grappling with?:

    A: The choice of "can" vesus "could" depends on context.
    B: The choice depends on general versus specific.

    Or are you simply saying this?:

    C: "Can" is always wrong.

    I might be able to share some examples that illustrate A, but I don't have anything useful to say about B (I'm not qualified) or C (I simply disagree).
    Last edited by Charlie Bernstein; 24-May-2020 at 15:43.
    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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