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  • Is there a best answer for this vocabulary question?

The question appeared on a large-scale test and we need to know whether it has two equally acceptable answers or just one best answer:

Sentence:

She was _________ good at covering the emotions she didn't want to show, but he read them all and threw them back in her face.

1) carefully 2) seriously 3) normally 4) wisely

Between options 2 and 3, can one be considered a better answer? Your answers can affect the results.

Thanks a lot in advance for your help.

  • Welcome to ELU. See the FAQ. Exam questions are off topic on this site. – Kris Jul 18 '18 at 10:58
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2) doesn't make sense, except with the recent colloquial use of seriously as an intensifier (seriously good = very good). I would not expect to find this use in writing, except in dialogue, or in a very pacy excited style of writing.

In any case, that meaning, while not impossible, is strange here - to say she is extremely good at hiding her emotions, but that he read them, is not very consequent.

Edit: strike the second paragraph.

  • I think that's a possible point of what the narration is saying - that she is very good at hiding her emotions, but he was able to see through it anyway (which suggests something special about him to her in some fashion) – Riley Scott Jacob Jul 18 '18 at 10:28
  • @RileyJacob: you're right, now I've read it again. But my first point still stands . – Colin Fine Jul 18 '18 at 10:31
  • I agree that its use as a qualifier is rather colloquial. – Riley Scott Jacob Jul 18 '18 at 10:34
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    You should explicitly add something about how the more natural word is therefore normally. ;) – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Jul 18 '18 at 15:08
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They both sound perfectly natural in colloquial speech. Using "seriously" as a qualifier like that is rather informal, and I would wager the "correct" answer ought be, "normally," which also sounds more natural across most situations (such as writing).

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The two options are "usually" as the primary better answer and "seriously" as the secondary possible answer.

The usage in the question is clearly as an adverb enhancing the descriptor "was good". Consider "She was normally good at covering". It is not an adverb modifying the state of being "was" as in how she was at that time. Consider "She was serious while she was good at covering".

Also, considering the chosen conjunction "but" (indicating contrary to her normally good ability to cover), the primary best answer "normally" makes the most sense. Even if the conjunction used in the question was "yet" (which might better indicate in spite of her seriousness while being good at covering), the secondary possible answer "seriously" still sounds awkward with "good" .

The secondary possible answer "seriously" can also be interpreted as the newer, very informal meaning (seriously = not joking/no kidding = very?). Technically it works, but does not fit the context of the question at all. The sentence used within the question gives no indication of the appropriateness of such an informal answer.

The better answer among the choices offered is "normally". The best answer (not) among the choices offered would be "usually" which has close meaning and makes a good comparison of support.

https://www.thefreedictionary.com/seriously

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The only possible adjective is normally modifying was.

The sentence could be clearer when rephrased:

Normally, she was good at covering the emotions she didn't want to show, …

or, with a difference in meaning,

She was , normally (as she usually is), good at covering the emotions she didn't want to show, …

No other option works.

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