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The U.S. lags countries such as South Korea and Germany, according to an Economist Intelligence Unit study, in preparing students to work with computational thinking, AI, and robotics.

This is a sentence from an article from The Atlantic that I was reading, but I don't quite understand what "lags" mean here (despite having searched up Oxford dictionary). Does it mean that the US is lagging behind S.Korea and Germany in preparing its students, or does it mean that the US accepts and prepares a lot of Korean & German students? I had never seen "lag" without behind before, so I'm not too sure.

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  • You should always check multiple dictionaries, not just one. See for example here or here. – userr2684291 Sep 22 '18 at 16:02
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    @userr2684291: OP doesn't necessarily need to check multiple dictionaries. It's true that only one of the example usages in OP's cited Oxford Dictionaries doesn't actually include the word behind, but even that one single example is enough to prove the point: I can tell the Labour members why they are lagging in the polls. – FumbleFingers Sep 22 '18 at 16:07
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    @FumbleFingers Sure, but that's not really the point I wanted to controvert; namely, lag is used transitively in the example the asker is asking about, while the ODE there labels the verb clearly as licensing [NO OBJECT]. The other dictionaries contain transitive definitions of the verb. – userr2684291 Sep 22 '18 at 16:15
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    @userr2684291: oic. Yeah, well I suppose all I can say on that front is that Oxford Dictionaries are simply wrong. Putting aside the question of whether it makes sense to differentiate between verbs that can attach to an "object" with or without a preposition / adverb (such as behind here), it certainly makes no sense to claim that to lag is a "no object" verb. You can lag the competition (definitely an "object", by anyone's standards), or you can be lagging in the polls (definitely not an "object", imho). – FumbleFingers Sep 23 '18 at 14:19
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To lag, in this context, means "to be behind" or "to go slower". It means Germany and Korea are ahead of the USA in preparing students for AI.

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