A: How do I know if my professor is good?

B: Do you understand what he says?

A: Yes, but that might be because I'm a natural genius, and not necessarily the fact that he is good at teaching.

B: Oh, you said "the fact that he is good at teaching" - so you are already taking for granted that he is a good professor!

A: You're an idiot.

This scenario was just made up - this never actually happened to me. However, I thought it is possible nonetheless (very rare though).

Can saying "the fact that X" imply "X is a fact"? What could A say instead to prevent B from using that logic?

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  • A can prevent B from using that logic by preemptively saying, “Oh, I'm an idiot, I forgot he's good at teaching.” – James Waldby - jwpat7 Mar 12 '13 at 1:17
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    The usage of fact in the context is incorrect, inappropriate and unwarranted. Use fact to state what you believe is true. Say '* ... not necessarily that ...*'. ("You're an idiot." is unwarranted and inappropriate, as well.) – Kris Mar 12 '13 at 5:32
  • This is really a logic question, and not so much about English Language and Usage. – Kit Z. Fox Mar 13 '13 at 16:14
  • Not sure why this is closed as off-topic...seems pretty clearly like a valid usage question to me. – Kyle Strand May 14 '13 at 19:11

No. Speaker A is listing the possibilities. He is not stating that the professor is good at teaching or that A is a genius.

He is saying that one of these two options is likely. In fact he is implying that these are the only two options.

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  • I'd agree, if A had said “not necessarily that he is good at teaching”, but “not necessarily the fact that he is good at teaching” is stronger than “just a possibility”. – James Waldby - jwpat7 Mar 12 '13 at 1:21
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    No. Using the fact that instead of simply that presupposes the that-clause. What it has to mean is that it's not simply the fact that he's good at teaching; i.e, there are other factors. – John Lawler Mar 12 '13 at 3:35
  • I'd say that speaker A's intention is clear but his wording is poor. "the fact that" should definitely be replaced with "because," which would correct the questionable syntax of the sentence as well as clarify the meaning. – Kyle Strand May 14 '13 at 19:13

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