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  1. retro's Avatar
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    #1

    surpass with negative connotation

    I was wondering if we can use surpass with a negative connotation.

    He's the worst player ever; impossible to surpass him.

    Whether or not it's fine, would you please come up with other equivalent verbs? What about outdo?

    Thank you


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    #2

    Re: surpass with negative connotation

    There's no reason why one cannot surpass someone else's state of badness.

    However, you've already made your statement he's the worst player ever. This is an absolute statement and anything else you add to this can only be to illustrate and emphasise the point, so simply re-stating the same thing with a different verb won't really add much.

    What you're looking for is extra color - you've drawn the black and white outline, but there are many ways to color it in. eg. give examples of how really bad things can be...and he is badder!

    he's the worst player ever... like...even worse than hitting your thumb with a hammer in a wet salt mine.


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    #3

    Re: surpass with negative connotation

    surpass means 'to be better than, to be superior to'

    From dictionary.com

    1. to go beyond in amount, extent, or degree; be greater than; exceed.
    2. to go beyond in excellence or achievement; be superior to; excel: He surpassed his brother in sports.
    3. to be beyond the range or capacity of; transcend: misery that surpasses description.


    In the sentence you have constructed I don't think you can use 'surpass' in this way, because if he really is the worst player ever, it should be very easy to surpass him rather than impossible.

    If you want to make it negative, you need to include a negative quality that cannot be surpassed.

    'He was the worst player ever. His incompetence could not be surpassed"


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    #4

    Re: surpass with negative connotation

    [quote=Andrew Whitehead;175678]transcend: misery that surpasses description.
    quote]

    There's not much point in simply quoting dictionaries on this website....just because some dictionary editor says something, doesn't make it right - they are well wrong on many words. Just look up poorly in the context of being ill....not one of them mention a derivation from the Danish purlich meaning to be ill!

    Andrew's quote here actually negates his own statement! misery is bad. misery that surpasses description says that surpasses can very well be used in the negative sense to emphasise how bad things can get.

    Surpass depends on context (as most of English!). If you are describing good things, surpass decribes better things. If you are describing bad things, surpass describes badder things. (the use of badder is deliberate and I claim that this word has every right to be included in any English dictionary - I'm totally qualmless about this claim!).


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    #5

    Re: surpass with negative connotation

    [QUOTE=pedant;176729]
    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Whitehead View Post
    transcend: misery that surpasses description.
    quote]


    Andrew's quote here actually negates his own statement! misery is bad. misery that surpasses description says that surpasses can very well be used in the negative sense to emphasise how bad things can get.
    You are seriously missing the point, to such an extent that I suspect you didn't read the entire post and missed this bit:-

    "If you want to make it negative, you need to include a negative quality that cannot be surpassed."

    I didn't say surpassed can't be used in the negative, I said that you have to include the negative quality in the statement as a modifier, because surpassed without a modifier means 'better than.'

  2. retro's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: surpass with negative connotation

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Whitehead View Post
    In the sentence you have constructed I don't think you can use 'surpass' in this way, because if he really is the worst player ever, it should be very easy to surpass him rather than impossible.

    If you want to make it negative, you need to include a negative quality that cannot be surpassed.

    'He was the worst player ever. His incompetence could not be surpassed"
    It's still a little bit over my head.

    Well, I thought that him could function here as a negative quality and "it's impossible to surpass him" suggests that no one in the world would play any worse than him or "it's impossible to surpass him" can be used figuratively.


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    #7

    Re: surpass with negative connotation

    "Him" of itself cannot have a negative connotation, unless taken as containing the understood statement "[it is] impossible to surpass his poor quality as a player ".

    Possible alternatives, both suggesting that you can do worse than the subject:

    No-one can better his performance as an appalling player.

    No other player can outdo him in playing so badly.

  3. retro's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: surpass with negative connotation

    Anglika and Andrew, thank you for your explanation, now it's clear.

    Would you check my new sentences anyway, do the words in blue work here?

    He's a big liar; it's impossible to surpass his unreliability/untruthfulness.

    Most people have said Beavis and Butt-head often go too far and no other TV figures can surpass their rudeness.


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    #9

    Re: surpass with negative connotation

    He's a big liar; it's impossible to surpass his untruthfulness. Ok but "mendacity" would be a better word.

    Most people have said Beavis and Butt-head often go too far and that no other TV figures can surpass their rudeness. I think this sentence works fine.

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    #10

    Re: surpass with negative connotation

    One more question: Can we use surpass with it or that or without it taking any noun when it is clear what is difficult to surpass?

    Zinedine Zidane of France headbutted Italy's Marco Materazzi during the 2006 World Cup final after Materazzi allegedly insulted the French player. Hardly has one witnessed any incident like that on the pitch, which is difficult to surpass.

    or

    Zinedine Zidane of France headbutted Italy's Marco Materazzi during the 2006 World Cup final after Materazzi allegedly insulted the French player. Fans have rarely witnessed any similar retaliation on the pitch and hardly anything could surpass it.

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