To improve the environment means improving/to improve our life.

diamondcutter

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A good environment can make people feel happy and comfortable. To improve the environment means improving our life. But what should we do to improve our environment? Here are some basic ways.

Source: A test paper.


I think the second sentence should be like this.

To improve the environment means to improve our life.

What do you say?
 

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jutfrank

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The original sentence is terribly wrong. As you've noticed, there's an odd asymmetry, with a to-infinitive as the subject and an -ing form in the predicate. To address this problem, the sentence could be corrected like this:

Improving the environment means improving our lives.

However, the logic here is questionable. As it stands, this sentence will most likely be interpreted to mean that improving our lives comes first, and improving the environment comes as a result, which is the complete opposite of what I suspect the writer means, which is this:

Improving the environment will lead to an improvement in our lives.

Alternatively, it could be that the writer wishes to make an equation between improving the environment and improving our lives (that is to say that they are the same thing), in which case the thought may be expressed like this:

To improve the environment is to improve our lives.

You can't make such an equation with the verb means, so your sentence is not right.
 
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Tdol

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It's easy to write sentences that look good, but harder to write ones that make good.
 

diamondcutter

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Does this sentence make good sense?

Improving our lives means improving the environment.
 

diamondcutter

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What about this sentence? Does it make sense?

Success means hard work.
 

5jj

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Yes - in two possible ways.
 

diamondcutter

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Hi, 5jj.

Would you please tell me what you mean by saying "in two possible ways"?
 

5jj

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Success comes as a result of hard work.
Hard work comes as a result of success.
 

diamondcutter

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I don't quite understand this sentence.

Hard work comes as a result of success.

How can hard work be the result of success?
 

diamondcutter

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In the Collins dictionary, I’ve found this definition.
5. If one thing means another, the first thing leads to the second thing happening.

In #3, Jutfrank says “Improving the environment means improving our lives” has a logic problem. According to the definition above, I’d like to know whether I could take this sentence to mean “Improving the environment leads to improving our lives”.
 

5jj

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You could, but that is not necessarily the message that was intended.
 

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Be careful you don't confuse meanings 5 and 6 in the Collins entry, where the position of the elements is reversed: With definition 5, the first thing comes first whereas with definition 6, the second thing comes first.

This confusion is what leads to your ambiguous sentence in post #7—the initial interpretation would be that you're using definition 6, but it could be (as 5jj explained), albeit unlikely, that you're using definition 5.
 
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diamondcutter

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I think I’ve got it.

Improving the environment doesn’t necessarily mean improving our lives.

If you say “Improving the environment means improving our lives”, you will mean “improving our lives” comes first and “improving the environment” is the result of it, just like you say “Success means hard work”.

What the verb “mean” means all depends on the situation. For example,

1. Success means hard work.
2. Laziness means failure.

It seems like there’s a strict one-to-one match between the two sentences and the verb “means” should have the same meaning, but common sense tells us the answer is “no”. The verb “means” in the 1st sentence means “involves” and in the 2nd sentence, the same verb means “leads to”.

Correspondingly/Accordingly (I don’t know which word to choose), we don’t say these sentences:

3. Hard work means success.
4. Failure means laziness.

I’d like to read your further comments.

By the way, I think this sentence also makes good sense. Do you agree?

Improving the environment is improving our lives.
 
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5jj

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1. Success means hard work.
2. Laziness means failure.

It seems like there’s a strict one-to-one match between the two sentences and the verb “means” should have the same meaning, but common sense tells us the answer is “no”. The verb “means” in the 1st sentence means “involves” and in the 2nd sentence, the same verb means “leads to”.
We have already told you that mean in the first sentence can mean leads to.
 

jutfrank

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I think I’ve got it.

Improving the environment doesn’t necessarily mean improving our lives.

If you say “Improving the environment means improving our lives”, you will mean “improving our lives” comes first and “improving the environment” is the result of it, just like you say “Success means hard work”.

What the verb “mean” means all depends on the situation. For example,

1. Success means hard work.
2. Laziness means failure.

It seems like there’s a strict one-to-one match between the two sentences and the verb “means” should have the same meaning, but common sense tells us the answer is “no”. The verb “means” in the 1st sentence means “involves” and in the 2nd sentence, the same verb means “leads to”.

Yes to all of that.

Correspondingly/Accordingly (I don’t know which word to choose), we don’t say these sentences:

3. Hard work means success.
4. Failure means laziness.

I’d like to read your further comments.

Sentence 3 could easily be read in the 'leads to' way. Sentence 4 is very hard to interpret in either way, however.

By the way, I think this sentence also makes good sense. Do you agree?

Improving the environment is improving our lives.

Not really. Not out of context, anyway.
 
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