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But whether that gift be present in greater or in lesser degree, the character and ideas of a statesman are best studied through his own words.

So what's the meaning of this "are?" Does this imply "can"?

It can be studied very well through his words?

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    are ... studied is merely the passive. The further meaning is supplied by the adverb best. "The best way to study a statesman's character and ideas is through his own words". – StoneyB Oct 10 '13 at 14:42
  • When two or more qualities of a person are described, then the plural of the verb is used. So, here "are" is used.. – Sweet72 Oct 10 '13 at 14:58
  • I agree with @StoneyB, it is not talking of can. It is stating the best way to study a statesman's character. – Dzyann Oct 10 '13 at 15:02
  • @StoneyB, You should add an answer.Your interpretation is exact. – Mistu4u Oct 10 '13 at 15:10
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    @Sweet72: You'd have to get up very early in the morning to catch StoneyB out in a basic error such as you suspect! The singular form of the verb is used because there's only one "best way". Grammatically, that's still the case if we're talking about doing multiple activities (the best way to discover and understand), and/or multiple people under study (the best way to study world leaders), and/or multiple aspects of the individual(s) under study (character and ideas). – FumbleFingers Oct 10 '13 at 21:43
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It can be studied very well through his words?

No. Are is never can in English. The author is saying, “It is best studied through his words.”

the character and ideas of a statesman are best studied through his own words.

Another way of saying this is:

If you want to understand the character and ideas of a statesman, it is best to examine what they themselves have to say.

Or in more simple English:

To understand a politician’s beliefs, you should listen to what the politician says about these beliefs (instead of what others have to say about them).

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