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I want to say that A can never be better than the better one of B and C, i.e., A must be worse than B or C. Do the following sentences have the same and correct meaning?

  1. A can never be better than either B or C
  2. A can never be better than both B and C
  3. A can never be better than B or C
  4. Either B or C is always equal to or better than A

Do you have other suggested sentences? I mean a sentence that may cause the least misunderstanding among readers.


An example of A, B, and C:

B: method 1. C: method 2. A: mix of method 1 and method 2.

Does suggestion 2 has the problem of being misunderstood as:

A can never be better than B and A can never be better than C?

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    In practice, this probably depends on exactly what A, B, and C are. As in, language is never perfectly logical, and connotation matters. – Marthaª Mar 21 '15 at 16:00
  • One of B or C will be as good as A. Although if this is going to be part of a logic puzzle, suggestion (2) works fine. – Peter Shor Mar 21 '15 at 16:21
  • At best, A is second best. – ScotM Mar 21 '15 at 16:24
  • @PeterShor I will use this sentence in an academic paper, comparing three methods. I very much want the sentence to use the structure of "A can never be better than xxxxx" rather than other same meaning variants. – Changwang Zhang Mar 21 '15 at 16:26
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    It seems the format: Either method B or method C will be better than method A, would be less ambiguous. But if you must use the format you posted, my opinion is that 2. would be the least ambiguous of the three: Method A can never be better than both method B and method C. – ScotM Mar 21 '15 at 16:51
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Your first and third phrasings are incorrect. To say "never better than either" means "always worse than both" (or, at best, equal to one of them).

#2 and #4 are both accurate, and logically equivalent, but #4 is convoluted—harder for the reader to parse.

So I would say use #2.

  • A can never be better than both B and C.

The "both" makes it explicit. Virtually all readers will take it to mean "A cannot simultaneously be better than B and better than C". Which is what you meant. (Actually, your introductory sentence is "clearer than both #2 and #4" but #2 is shortest.)

  • Does suggestion 2 has the problem of being misunderstood as: A can never be better than B and A can never be better than C? – Changwang Zhang Mar 22 '15 at 10:35
  • Not likely. The "both" makes it explicit. Virtually all readers will take that to mean "A cannot simultaneously be better than B and better than C". Which is what you meant. (Actually, your introductory sentence is "clearer than both #2 and #4" but #2 is shortest.) – Brian Hitchcock Mar 22 '15 at 10:51
  • Eh... I took that to mean "A cannot be better than the combination of B and C", as in "If you have the option of picking A, but you also have the option of picking B and C, you should pick both B and C over picking A". Or, less abstractly, the statement "Pancakes can never be better than both waffles and syrup" could lead someone to the conclusion that they can pick both waffles and syrup simultaneously. – Parthian Shot Mar 24 '15 at 23:57

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