Overcome/surpass/excel

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JohnnyTheSkier

Senior Member
Russia, russian
Hi all!

Could you tell me what is the difference between overcome, surpass, and excel?

For example, are all of these statements correct?

John is an outstanding skier, but I'll overcome him for sure!
John is an outstanding skier, but I'll surpass him for sure!
John is an outstanding skier, but I'll excel him for sure!

Thanx in advance!
 
  • river

    Senior Member
    U.S. English
    To me, surpass means to do or be far better than someone or something.

    Excel is to do something extremely well or to do or be better than someone or something. "I'll excel him" sounds funny to me, but I think you can say it.

    You could say outdo - to do more or better than someone: I'll outdo him.

    Overcome is to defeat someone or something. Sounds funny too. But I've heard "I'll overcome my opponent."
     

    JohnnyTheSkier

    Senior Member
    Russia, russian
    Thanks, river.

    Then, how could "excel" and "overcome" be used in sentences conveying the same meaning as mine above?

    And what would be the word that fits most in "... but I'll (...) him for sure"? Surpass and outdo?
     

    liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    Of the three, "surpass" is the best choice.
    I'd be more likely to overcome an obstacle, a difficulty or a disability.
    "To excel" is more often used in the sense of "do very well" than "do better", except in the expression to "excel oneself".
    Frankly, all three sentences sound a little odd. I would use any of the following:
    Outdo, outshine, beat, best, top.
     

    JohnnyTheSkier

    Senior Member
    Russia, russian
    Thanks a lot, liliput!

    Having seen your reply, I thought that I might need to comment on the meaning I want to convey. It's not that I want to beat John in a single race or something. Imagine that he is a top skier in the ranking. But I want to be the number one, which does not necessarily imply that I must face him in a race. I simply may win a lot of tournaments and be the number one since I'll earn more points. Do "outdo" and "outshine" work from this point of view? What about "beat", "best" and "top"?

    Another case: Imagine that John is not a skier, but a CEO of the second largest company in the world. I want to be a CEO of the first largest company. Can I say "John, I'll outdo you and be a CEO of the first largest company?"

    Thanks in advance.
     

    liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    Thanks a lot, liliput!

    Having seen your reply, I thought that I might need to comment on the meaning I want to convey. It's not that I want to beat John in a single race or something. Imagine that he is a top skier in the ranking. But I want to be the number one, which does not necessarily imply that I must face him in a race. I simply may win a lot of tournaments and be the number one since I'll earn more points. Do "outdo" and "outshine" work from this point of view? What about "beat", "best" and "top"?

    Another case: Imagine that John is not a skier, but a CEO of the second largest company in the world. I want to be a CEO of the first largest company. Can I say "John, I'll outdo you and be a CEO of the first largest company?"

    Thanks in advance.
    Yes, I think "outdo" is the perfect word for this context. "Outshine" would be OK; "beat" might be best for a specific contest; "best", as Kenny has pointed out, is probably a little old-fashioned, as is "top".
    Thinking about "surpass", I would probably say something like "surpass/exceed his achievements" rather than "surpass/exceed him", but "outdo him" conveys this very well.
     
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