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    undertake = attempt or encounter?

    What would you choose as an alternative to the underlined word in the sentence below?

    First year students are required to undertake simple experiments
    A. submerge B. uncover C. attempt D. encounter

    My choice is D.encounter but my teacher says the answer is C.attempt. I have never seen "attempt smt" but "attempt to do smt". And yet, I think that "encounter smt" is appropriate.

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    Re: undertake = attempt or encounter?

    I'm afraid your teacher is right, though the question is bad; A, B and D are all wrong because they are verbs that refer to an action done to something that's already there - and it would still be there if you didn't do them. An island, for example, has to exist before it can be submerged; a bunch of flowers must exist before it is uncovered at the end of a magic act; a tree trunk fallen across a road must exist before it is encountered. But an experiment can be the object of a verb that doesn't require it to exist before the action starts; you can conduct or plan or conceive of it. You can undertake it; and attempt it.

    But, although 'attempt' can be used to replace 'undertake' without any serious change to the meaning, I wouldn't really call it 'an alternative'; to suggest that teachers undertake experiments but students only attempt them is not only patronizing - it also shows how the meanings differ.


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