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General Writing and Grammar Help/Get the better of someone - get the best of someone

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Question
Dear Ted:

What is the difference between "to get the BEST of someone" and "to get the BETTER of someone?

Would you please give me some examples?

Many, many thanks for your kind help.

Paolo

Answer
Dear Paolo:

PLEASE DO NOT RATE THIS ANSWER UNTIL YOU HAVE READ ALL THREE OF MY ANSWERS ON THE SUBJECT OF BEST/BETTER.

There are many problems in giving you a definitive answers.  The first problem is that there is NO definitive answer.  The British have their way; the Americans have a different way.

Secondly, in America, quite often the choice is made by the geographic location.  For example, the people in New England differ from the people in the South.

Third, both phrases are idioms, and the general rules of grammar do NOT apply to idioms.

That being said, what follows is my personal view:

BETTER is the comparative form.  You must be comparing TWO things ONLY.  If Jack and Jim are in a contest with each other and Jack wins over Jim, you can say that "Jack has gotten the BETTER of Jim."

BEST is the superlative form.  There must be more than two participants or two things involved in the comparison.  If the contest involves ten people and Jack wins, you can say that "Jack has gotten the BEST of all the contestants."

THAT is how I interpret the two phrases.  I caution you, however, that other people may have different answers that may be just as good as mine.

Stay tuned for more answers in the next response.

Ted

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Ted Nesbitt

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

Education/Credentials
B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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