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There is a multiple choice exercise:

The president won the election because of the ____ speech he made, which won him people's trust successfully.

a. astonishing
b. plausible

The definition from Cambridge dictionary is "likely to be true"

I can accept that we use it like, "plausible explanation". But for me, it seems to be negative to say a speech is plausible.

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    I wonder if this wouldn't be a better question on English Language Learners.
    – J.R.
    Aug 14 '17 at 8:24
  • Are you sure you've copied the question correctly? I'd not expect competent users to submit '... which won him people's trust successfully.' How can you win unsuccessfully? What is the source of this question? What is it testing? Chomsky would label the use of 'plausible' here 'grammatical'. But he'd do the same for 'blue-green'. Aug 14 '17 at 10:18
  • I'd prefer credible here, but of the given options ... I wouldn't like to say. Aug 14 '17 at 12:28
  • Please provide details on the source of this question. Questions set by non-native speakers of English often contain errors, as it seems that this one does: both answers are acceptable and the phrasing "which won him the people's trust successfully" is odd.
    – James K
    Aug 15 '17 at 20:57
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The president won the election because of the ____ speech he made, which won him people's trust successfully.

a. astonishing
b. plausible

Neither choice is perfect, but I'd argue the correct answer to this question is a. astonishing.

Reason 1: It is highly unlikely that you would describe an entire speech as plausible. A specific individual claim (or campaign promise or inspiring story) from the speech might be plausible or not, but it's just not a term that would normally be applied to an entire speech, except perhaps if the entire speech was one long single topic or single argument (very few political speeches are).

Reason 2: "Astonishing" is much greater praise than "plausible", and therefore much more likely to win someone's vote/trust. In fact, "plausible" is hardly praise at all, it's more of a tepid acknowledgement that there is some chance the claim/fact might not be totally wrong. (This is a bit of an exaggeration, and certainly not something you'd see in the dictionary definition, but I'm just trying to put into words how it is used/perceived.)

I think the fact that the speech is described as something that won the candidate the election, that "astonishing" is much more likely to be correct.

Possible counter-point: A speech being "astonishing" could cause people to like him or to support him or whatever, it is a little harder to see how it would cause people to trust him, since those don't really have much to do with each other. "Trust" and something being "plausible" are at least talking about the same kind of thing (truth/falsehood). But if that's the point the writer was trying to make, I think they would describe it a different way.

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In this context, I can only imagine a presidential speech being described as plausible if the person giving said speech was a presidential impersonator.

Plausible doesn't really imply trustworthiness, it's more a measure of how convincing a piece of fiction or speculation is, whether that's a single lie or an entire body of work.

To further expand on this, you might be able to describe portions of a political speech as plausible:

"I promise to reduce taxes."

...as opposed to something more extreme that you might describe as implausible:

"I promise to a build a ladder to the moon."

But I would think that as a whole, a political speech deserves a broader assessment than whether or not it resembles a political speech.

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