can play tennis <best /well> of all his friends

Discussion in 'English Only' started by KYC, Mar 21, 2011.

  1. KYC Senior Member

    Mandarin
    Hello, there:
    Tom can play tennis _____(well) of all his friends.
    I am wondering if the underline is best or well.
    I think it is adverb but I am not sure I should fill in the superlative or just adverb.
    May I have your confirmaion?
    Thanks a lot!
     
  2. gravity_defiant New Member

    USA
    English (American)
    If you are comparing him to many people and he is the most good, use the superlative "best."
     
  3. KYC Senior Member

    Mandarin
    Thanks a lot for your confirmation, gravity_defiant!
    It is very helpful!
     
  4. Languagethinkerlover Senior Member

    English-British and U.S.
    Isn't it 'the best' and not just 'best' for that sentence...Tom can play tennis _____(well) of all his friends. Tom can play tennis the best of all his friends.
     
  5. gravity_defiant New Member

    USA
    English (American)
    Hmm, I actually prefer it without the extra "the." But I think it's grammatically correct either way.
     
  6. KYC Senior Member

    Mandarin
    Thanks a lot!
     
  7. ribran

    ribran Senior Member

    Austin, Texas
    English - American
    I, too, think the sentence needs the definite article.
     
  8. KYC Senior Member

    Mandarin
    Thanks a lot.
    Now I am a little confused because I learned that I can omit the "the" if it is a comparative adverb from the grammar book.
    May I have your confirmation?
    Thanks a lot!
     
  9. ribran

    ribran Senior Member

    Austin, Texas
    English - American
    I am not so sure about that. To me, "Tom can play tennis best of all his friends," sounds ungrammatical.
     
  10. Myridon

    Myridon Senior Member

    Texas
    English - US
    I think it would be better to say:
    "Tom can play tennis better than of all his friends"
     
  11. ribran

    ribran Senior Member

    Austin, Texas
    English - American
    Yes, of course. I wanted to focus specifically on the question of the article.

    I would get rid of can.

    Tom plays tennis better than all his friends.
     
  12. Languagethinkerlover Senior Member

    English-British and U.S.

    Yeah, I agree that 'can' should be omitted.
    I like this: Tom plays tennis better than all his friends.

    You can also say, 'Of all his friends, Tom plays tennis the best.

    Tom can play tennis _____(well) of all his friends.
     
  13. Fabulist Banned

    Annandale, Virginia, USA
    American English
    Forcing a single form of the adverb "well" into this sentence produces a strained sentence that I don't think very many native speakers would actually write or say. We can't say "better than" because of the "of" after the blank—"better than of" is not English. He can't really be "the best" of all his friends, either, because he is not one of his friends, he is he. He could be "the best" of his class, form, school, neighborhood, town, etc. He could be "the best of his group," i.e., the social group that includes him and his friends.

    Without the "of," at least two answers are possible: "as well as" and "better than."

    If this is a school exercise in China, it looks to me like it was written by an inept pedagogue and does not have an answer that would be idiomatic in English. Sorry.
     
  14. Languagethinkerlover Senior Member

    English-British and U.S.
    When I say the best of all his friends, I know that he is not one of his friends (not including himself as a friend) but it's implied that out of his friends and he, he plays tennis the best.
     
  15. Fabulist Banned

    Annandale, Virginia, USA
    American English
    Would you really say, "He plays tennis the best of all his friends?" or are you making that up to accommodate the original problem? Wouldn't you say, "He plays tennis better than all [or any] of his friends"?
     
  16. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southern England
    English - England
    This raises several issues. Is Tom the person referred to by the his?

    If there is a person Charlie with many friends, one of whom is called Tom who plays tennis better than any other of Charlie's friends, then one might say Tom plays tennis best (or the best, which is more emphatic) of all his (i.e. Charlie's) friends.

    If Tom is the person referred to by the his, then we can't say Tom plays tennis best of all his friends, because Tom isn't one of his own friends. It has to be something like Tom plays tennis better than any of his (i.e. Tom's) friends.

    The lack of clarity in the question has led to confusion in several of the answers here, in my view.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2011
  17. Fabulist Banned

    Annandale, Virginia, USA
    American English
    Mr. Tompion's analysis is interesting but we don't have any context with Charlie in it. In the stand-alone sentence that we have, the only available antecedent for "his" is "Tom."

    Mr. Tompion and I agree that Tom can't be the best tennis player among his friends. (Well, maybe he could be if he's read a pop-psych self-help book urging him to "be your own best friend," but not otherwise.) Tom's tennis prowess might be put that way in informal or careless speech, but then I don't think that "best of all his friends" is an informal phrasing.
     
  18. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southern England
    English - England
    My point was that Tom can play tennis best of all his friends is perfectly correct if there is some other person referred to by his. The fact that I called this other putative person Charlie is neither here nor there. The fact that another person isn't specified in the context we are given leaves open the possibility that he exists. That the form of words would be perfectly correct if someone other than Tom is being referred to by his seemed, and still seems, a point worth making.

    I'm sorry this was not clear.
     
  19. Fabulist Banned

    Annandale, Virginia, USA
    American English
    Yes, but the one sentence doesn't have anyone else besides Tom in it—Dick, Harry, Charlie, or whoever. Unless this sentence refers to a story or there is additional context that KYC did not provide, "he" can only be "Tom." If this is a stand-alone sentence on an exam or in a book of exercises, then we have the problem that there is no inflection of "well" that we can insert into the blank and make a good English sentence.
     
  20. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southern England
    English - England
    My point is that in the absence of context excluding the other person, the sentence can be perfectly correct. At the moment the sentence is perfectly possible. I agree entirely that if we were given additional context excluding another male person, to whom the his might refer, then Tom would become the only person to whom the his could refer and the sentence would cease to be correct.

    ps. You see I don't think that special rules apply to "a stand-alone sentence on an exam or in a book of exercises" to those of ordinary English. I don't even understand what a stand-alone sentence is: how can one remove all context from a sentence? The opening sentence of a novel is apparently without context, but one can't forget than that it's the opening sentence of a novel, which is itself context. Tom can play tennis best of all his friends would be fine as an opening sentence of a novel, but not as a stand-alone sentence apparently(?) I don't buy it.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2011
  21. Fabulist Banned

    Annandale, Virginia, USA
    American English
    Lots of highly improbable sentences can be "correct" if you spin an elaborate enough story to go around them. The sentence at issue is a "stand-alone" sentence because for us it stands alone, with no other sentences accompanying it. What it could just possibly mean if it had rained last Thursday in Samarkand might be different from what it could possibly mean if it was part of, or followed, a three-page story about Tom and his tennis prowess. But we have just eight words and a blank, only one of which can be the antecedent of "his."

    If there is more context, we can consider that if and when KYC provides it.
     
  22. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southern England
    English - England
    I've said I don't know how a sentence can stand alone, and I still have no idea what the collocation can mean. Don't you think the sentence we are discussing would be perfectly correct as the opening sentence of a novel? - how could a sentence have less context? I see nothing improbable about it at all. What is so odd about a boy having a group of friends, one of whom is called Tom?
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2011
  23. KYC Senior Member

    Mandarin
    First, thanks a lot for everyone's replies.
    I really learn a lot from all of your clarifications.
    It is from a choice exercie so no more context.
    Thanks a lot!
    I knew the sentence is not idiomatic from your opinions.
    Hmm, I think it is more like Chinese English.
    I am haunted by the compariosion.
    Your answers are very helpful.
    Thanks again!
     
  24. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southern England
    English - England
    If you've got the impression that the sentence is not idiomatic, KYC, I fear you have been misled.
     

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