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This triple appears wrong to me:

The demonstrations show that program A is functional, fast, and finds a solution that program B misses.

Because functional and fast are adjectives and both depend on is, while finds a solution does not. Of course, I could say,

The demonstrations show that program A is functional, fast, and capable of finding a solution that program B misses.

But, I feel, this is clumsy and conveys a slightly different meaning. Yet another solution would be

The demonstrations show that program A functions, is fast, and finds a solution that program B misses.

But I am not sure if functions can/should be used like this. Finally, there is

The demonstrations show that program A is functional and fast and finds a solution that program B misses.

Which is also not very nice. I am not a native speaker. Any suggestions would be appreciated.


EDIT: I also thought of

The demonstrations show that program A is both functional and fast and finds a solution that program B misses.

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Good observation, and syntactically, you are right — there is a problem. Another interesting thing about this construction is that I think (anecdotally) it is a not-entirely-uncommon error to make, so why might that be? –  Kosmonaut Dec 11 '10 at 16:08
    
I'm hard-pressed to think of an appropriate adjective myself, so I'm interested in answers to this question as well. :) +1. –  user730 Dec 11 '10 at 16:19
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I don’t know if this is relevant — would depend on your context — but functional has a technical meaning in CS (a specific style of programming languages/programmes), for which “this program functions” would not be a synonym of “this program is functional”. –  PLL Dec 11 '10 at 17:26
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@PLL: good point, I did not make the connection. I would think, however, that "The demonstrations shows" indicates that functional does not refer to the programming paradigm... –  Frank Dec 11 '10 at 19:21
    
yes, that’s true, it does make it reasonably clear. (Incidentally, it should be either “The demonstrations show” or the “The demonstration shows”, as in the answerers’ examples.) –  PLL Dec 11 '10 at 19:48

4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I think the completely-parallel construction would be

The demonstrations show that Program A is functional, is fast, and finds a solution that Program B misses.

However, I don't think that flows any better than the original.

Of the variations you list, my second choice would be the one that puts another and between "functional" and "fast":

The demonstrations show that Program A is functional and fast, and finds a solution that Program B misses.

The capable of finding version is grammatical, but you're right, it means something slightly different than finds. I wouldn't suggest the functions variation, because I think it's even worse in terms of parallelism than the original.

Edit: on re-reading, I think the double-and version needs another word:

The demonstrations show that Program A is functional and fast, and it finds a solution that Program B misses.

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Here is another wording that fixes the problem and (I think) sounds less awkward than "functional and fast and finds...":

The demonstrations show that Program A is not only functional and fast, but also finds a solution that Program B misses.

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Now that actually sounds better on the ears! Great stuff! –  user730 Dec 11 '10 at 16:48
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This is nice in some ways, but alters the emphasis a bit, to my ear. The original puts “functional”, “fast”, and “finds a solution” all on an equal footing; this version groups “functional” and “fast” together, and then balances that group against “finds a solution”. Also, breaking it up with the “…but also…” weakens the alliteration a bit, I feel. –  PLL Dec 11 '10 at 17:30
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@PLL: You're right, although I personally think the change in emphasis strengthens the delivery of the information; I think the third item in the list is the stand-out item. It's subjective of course. –  Kosmonaut Dec 11 '10 at 18:27

You can also split it in two sentences:

The demonstrations show that program A is functional and fast. [Moreover,] They [also] show that program A finds a solution that program B misses.

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The issue is really not with the adjective order. Both "fast" and "functional" are adjectives of opinion and can be placed in either order. The issue is in the illiteration of the words. You're using fast, functional, and finds practically next to eachother. That's what is making the sentence sound strange. Try using synonym, I would suggest using "comes up with a solution" rather than just "finds" "practical" instead of "functional" And so on.

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