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(1)Vin is the smartest guy that can play a piano.

(2)Vin is the smartest guy in the class that can play a piano.

(3)Vin is the smartest guy in the class that can understand every kind of algebra and calculus.

I asked my grammar teacher about the meaning of the first one today, and she said that means "there are many people who can play a piano, and Vin is one of them, and he is the smartest."

I thought that made sense, so I came up with another example(which is the number two) and asked. She just replied "there is no such kind of usage." I just said to myself "what!? there are plenty of them!"

So, please help me with (2) and (3)! And, I'd like to try to explain (2) and (3) because I think that may make it easier for you guys to help me^^

My explanation to (2) is: Vin is the smartest in the class, and he can play a piano.(I don't think it implies "there are classmates who play a piano, and Vin is the smartest one in them." I think the meaning of (2) is different from (1). Maybe it is ambiguous so it could be explained that way?)

My explanation to (3) is: Vin is the smartest guy in the class, and he can understand every kind of algebra and calculus.(kind of like the (2))

About (3), there is a similar sentence on the net:

Sailor Algebra: The smartest guy in the universe that can understand every kind of algebra and calculus.

from http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/Sailor_Moon/List_of_minor_Sailor_Moon_characters

  • Not an answer, but two observations: 1) Replace "that" with "who in all three sentences. It's much better to use "who" as a pronoun for people. 2) These comparisons are odd; "smart" and other talents aren't logically connected, or likely to be compared, as in sentences 1 and 2, and the third is odd because it's unclear why the comment is being made -- is a smart person not supposed to understand complex math? – user8356 Jul 26 '18 at 14:49
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(2) means: Take all the people in the class. Then remove everyone who can't play the piano. Vin and some other people remain in the group. Vin is the smartest one in that group. Perhaps there is a non-piano player in the class who is smarter than Vin, but she doesn't play the piano, so she doesn't count.

(3) has a similar meaning: Take all the people in the class. Then remove everyone who doesn't understand algebra and calculus. Vin and some other people remain in the group. Vin is the smartest one in that group. Perhaps there is someone in the class who is smarter than Vin, but she's bad at math, so she doesn't count.

The "Sailor Algebra" quotation is poorly phrased. The intended meaning is clearly "Sailor Algebra is the smartest person in the universe, and furthermore, Sailor Algebra understands all kinds of math", but the phrasing is unclear. A better way to express that idea would be: "Sailor Algebra, the smartest guy in the universe, understands all kinds of algebra and calculus".

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Whenever you have "the {adjective}-est {noun}" followed by a relative clause, any property or behavior referred to in the relative clause can be understood to apply to a set of {noun} where each item in the set possesses the property or evinces the behavior to some degree.

The fastest creature on two feet= the fastest creature in the set of creatures with two feet

The fastest thing on wheels = the fastest thing in the set of things with wheels.

The funniest thing I've seen all day = the funniest thing in the set of funny things I've seen today

The spiciest food I've ever eaten= the spiciest food in the set of spicy foods I've eaten in my lifetime.

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