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Which is the correct way to compare two values or quantities? Apart from 'greater than', or 'lower than', could you say something like '1 is close to 2, but far from 9'?

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I assume you don't mean something like, "1 is closer to 2 than to 9"? – Kosmonaut Sep 22 '10 at 13:31
No, I don't mean that. It's just an example. If you like: 1 is close to 2. 1 is far from 9. Is that correct? – Julian Sep 22 '10 at 13:35
up vote 2 down vote accepted

For quantities, you really need to compare them from a more relative view. I think it is incorrect to say "x is close to y" and "z is far from y". You need a point of reference when discussing distance, so saying "x is closer to y than z" is correct. Of course, you can define what it is to be "close". If you say "x is close to y if |x - y| < epsilon" for some epsilon, then it could work out, but otherwise it is meaningless.

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I think you're getting into the realm of philosophy or pure math here rather than English usage. Sure, a mathematician needs a strict definition of a word like "close" but I think normal speech allows the context to provide the requisite definition. So normally you could say that 1 and 2 are close and 1 and 10 are far, unless your context is "inches away from here" and your range of values goes way past 10. Basically I'm saying that normal speech and the context of the speakers implies your epsilon. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Sep 22 '10 at 22:07
I'll mark this as the accepted answer, as both the comment and the answer itself are pretty insightful. Thanks! – Julian Sep 23 '10 at 8:27

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