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On a practice test, this sentence was given with the instructions to select the correct version:

The English teacher, Mrs. Jensen, is nicer than any teacher in the whole school.

This is obviously a bit nonsensical, because “any teacher” would include Mrs. Jensen, and she can’t be nicer than herself. Two of the four answers were wrong for obvious reasons, but answers A and B were as follows:

A) The English teacher, Mrs. Jensen, is nicer than any other teacher in the whole school.

B) The English teacher, Mrs. Jensen, is as nice as any other teacher in the whole school.

The test claimed that B was the correct answer. (No explanation was given.) Can you please tell me why answer A is incorrect? To me, they seem like two different, but correct, statements.

Thanks!

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    I agree with you, answer A seems more accurate. It’s the difference between "greater than" and "greater than or equals". That said, answer B also implies she’s as nice as the second nicest teacher in the whole school...if the word "other" was omitted from answer B, it might imply she was the nicest. – Pam Apr 5 '18 at 17:00
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    Either one is valid. And the original, while frowned on by anal retentive types, is reasonably idiomatic in casual speech. – Hot Licks Apr 6 '18 at 11:50
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    The sentences in (A) and (B) mean different things. In (A), Mrs. Jensen > Any Other Teacher in the School on the niceness measure; in (B), Mrs. Jensen ≥ Any Other Teacher in the School on the same measure. Unless you have access to independent information regarding the relative niceness of Mrs. Jensen and the other teachers in the school—and no such information appears in the material you provide—I think you are dealing with a defective test question here. – Sven Yargs Apr 6 '18 at 21:07
  • Maybe it's because logically nice doesn't get any nicer. A person is either nice, or not. etymonline.com/word/nice – Bread Apr 7 '18 at 0:25
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Answer A is obviously correct, with no room for argument. The original phrase, while logically amusing, is easily understood and completely clear in its meaning that Mrs. Jensen is not equally as nice as another teacher (answer B), but instead is nicer than all other teachers in the school.

While some may use the phrase "as nice as any" to mean the nicest, it is not explicit in its meaning. Answer A is correct.

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It appears you have run afoul of some specific form of prescriptivism. Based on the initial sentence, answer A is absolutely it's correct equivalent. Answer B has a similar, but different, meaning.

Me being me, I would actually discuss this with the test author. One of my biggest gripes about testing is questions that have "answers" that are either incorrect, or not the only answer.

While A and B are both grammatically correct, answer A is definitely the correct answer given the question presented.

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It is only, as you say, 'a bit' nonsensical (even if something either is or isn't nonsensical).

But consider that if, by ANY, you are implying "any [teacher] I know" then it makes perfect sense, and so it's fine. Where the real problem is is 'whole' school, becuase we could argue that the 'whole' school is nonsensical; 'whole' as opposed to what? 'part of the school'?

Syntactically speaking, anyway, there's nothing wrong with it. It is, however, 'a bit nonsensical' if the receiver is left to question what you meant

Speaking of picky... 'nicer'? what exactly do you mean by 'nice'?

By the way, you could write to the authors of the practice test to point out that today there's no need to have commas there—and no period after Mrs, as well. But that's just being ...picky.

  • Well, 'nice' is inherently a subjective view anyway, so there's an assumption on the part of the speaker that others would judge niceness the same way, but also that others may not agree with the assessment. And sure, the "whole" school as opposed to "the English department" or "8th grade teachers" or any other categorical. – Jesse Williams Oct 19 '18 at 14:04

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