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"My job is important because it makes the best use of nature possible."

I'm not sure how the word 'possible' is used in this sentence. I've looked up the dictionaries and thought of possible usages. First, I guess it could be a way used after adjectives to emphasize that something is the best, worst, and so on as the sentence "It was the best possible surprise anyone could have given me." Otherwise, it could be used to modify the word 'nature' as post-modification. It's quite confusing. I would appreciate if someone answers this question. Thank you.

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  • In "My job is important because it makes the best use of nature possible." "possible" is a post-positional adjective modifying "use" = "My job is important because it makes the best use of nature that is possible." = "... the best possible use of nature."
    – Greybeard
    May 21 at 10:27
  • @Greybeard Probably the default sense here, but the reading 'My job is important because it makes possible the best use of nature' is another possibility. May 21 at 11:17
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    The default sense would be clearer if it were rewritten "…the best possible use of nature".
    – David
    May 21 at 11:35
  • It could be parsed as a Postpositive adjective or a reduced object passive relative clause.
    – Stuart F
    May 21 at 12:23
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    So the answer to the OQ is "The word possible is used in an ambiguous way in this sentence." May 22 at 17:12
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The sentence is syntactically ambiguous. It could be interpreted as a somewhat unusual variant of:

My job is important because it makes the best possible use of nature.

In other words, the idea may be that, out of the many ways in which nature could be used, the way in which it is used in my job is the best one. On that reading, the meaning of the sentence would not change significantly if possible were omitted; it functions principally as an emphasising device.

Alternatively, the sentence could be interpreted as an equivalent of:

My job is important because it makes it possible to use nature in the best way.

On that reading, the sentence would not, strictly speaking, say (although it may conversationally implicate) that nature is actually used in the best way in my job; the sentence wold say only that in my job the possibility of such use is created, which possibility may or may not be actualised later. If the sentence is interpreted in this way, then possible is essential to its overall meaning.

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  • This is where you (or I, at least) feel the absence of the nominative/accusative distinction in English. "That makes him happy" could use the nominative form of "happy", and "makes it possible" likewise. "Makes the best possible use" would have "possible" and "use" in the accusative. "Call me a taxi." "OK, you're a taxi." If we just used "taxi" in the accusative" when we meant "Call a taxi for me" and the nominative when we meant "Say the I'm a taxi", then there would be no ambiguity. May 23 at 15:39

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