The verb 'resist' means

withstand the action or effect of.

Now, I want to convey that a person (suppose "he") has a tendency to be on top always, like he always wants to be the best among the lot. I want to express this using resist. So which of the following is correct :

  • He can't resist being the best among all.
  • He can't resist not being the best among all.

The confusion is that according to me, the first one is like "He has an addiction to be the best, so he has to be the best"; whereas the second one is like "He cannot stand the fact that he is not the best."
So which one of the two is correct?

  • 1
    Your second example is nonsense. It should be He can't abide not being the best [of all]. – FumbleFingers Feb 3 '17 at 17:23
  • Your first sentence is grammatically correct, but I don't feel like it's phrased in a fluent way. We usually resist a temptation, or a desire, or a pressure, but "being the best" is a state, not a temptation, desire, or pressure. It would be more fluent to say "He can't resist the desire to be the best." – stangdon Feb 3 '17 at 17:47

You can say certain phrases in English, but that doesn't mean they make sense. In your context "can't resist [something]" implies that the person must give in to some temptation or compulsion, even though they otherwise might want to.

Although he's not a regular smoker, he can't resist having a smoke if he sees a friend light up nearby.

I'm on a diet, but I can't resist that delicious-looking chocolate cake.

She hates to be wrong and can't resist getting in the last word of an argument.

Based on this usage, "he can't resist being the best" is a little weird. Grammatically it's fine, but it begs the question why he would want to resist in the first place.

Instead, I would say something like:

He was always compelled to be the best.

He couldn't stand to be anything less than the best.

No matter what the activity, he was always driven to be the best.

and various others.

Note (as the other answer points out) your second example is a double negative -- which is not itself wrong, but you do have to be careful that the sentence makes logical sense and means what you want it to mean. Replace "can't resist" with "must" (which retains much of the overall meaning) and you get:

He [must] not be the best of them all.

This is the opposite of the first example, and also doesn't really make sense. Why would he be tempted not to be the best?


The first one is correct, although "best of all" would be more common than "best among all" in American usage.

The second example uses a double negative, giving the meaning that he actuall CAN resist being the best.

  • Doesn't the second say that "he can not resist the fact that he is not the best (and is therefore disturbed by it)". – Shraddheya Shendre Feb 3 '17 at 15:39
  • I don't know how you can resist a fact, so let's talk about the situation. The situation is that he is not the best; if he resists this situation, then he strives to improve; if he can NOT resist this situation, then he surrenders and accepts that he is not the best. Double and triple negatives should be used sparingly when the goal is clarity. – Davo Feb 3 '17 at 15:55

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