With varying degrees of success

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Senior Member
Hi everyone,

I think I'm familiar with the phrase in question, but it's always good to make sure. My question is one about usage... let's take the following sentences:

1) Scientists have been trying to find the cure for cancer for years, with varying degrees of success - a euphemistic way of saying 'they were not very successful in doing so', an understatement
2) I've marked your essays and I'm happy to announce that all of you have passed, with varying degrees of success - everyone passed but the results varied wildly

Which of these strikes you as the correct usage of the phrase under discussion? I'd be more inclined to think it's 1), but I'm far from being certain.
  • dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Thanks. I thought there is more to this phrase than its literal meaning but I might've been reading too much into it.


    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    The first sentence is also an appropriate use. The writer, like many others, has said "the" cure for "cancer" as if it were a single disease with a single remedy. In fact, there are many conditions lumped under the word "cancer", and there have been, in fact, varying degrees of success in treating them, with cures in many cases, depending on the tissues affected, the nature of the cancer, and the stage and complexity of the disease.
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