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My question is: Which word is used incorrectly in the following sentence?

The psychic was known for being able to tap into his latent power.

A. Psychic
B. Known
C. Latent
D. Into

At first we were thinking of the word "into" as it may be more appropriately written as "in to". However, most grammar sites are saying that "into" has to be in one word in these kind of contexts, for example:

The other words all seemed fine to us in this sentence so we are not sure if into is the problem and if so how to fix it?

  • Really no idea, but I don't think there's anything wrong with "into" here. "Tap into" is a very well-established expression. "Tap in to" is much rarer; I get 36M vs 2M hits respectively in Google and many of the hits for the latter seem to be coincidental or wrong. – tripleee Nov 7 '18 at 11:45
  • Thanks for the reply. Yeah agreed on the use of "into" instead of "in to", it's just the other words all seem to be correct and less likely to be wrong from a grammar point of view. I am now thinking that perhaps it is not about the English but about word of choice, i.e. if latent power is appropriate to describe the ability of a psychic. – j.blade Nov 7 '18 at 11:59
  • I think the example is OK. "latent" just being power the psychic hasn't yet tapped into ("Existing or present but concealed or inactive" mentioned by J.R.). What is the source of this question? From some specific locale, or is there any reason to question its accuracy? – user3169 Nov 8 '18 at 6:23
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I think the problem is with latent.

Consider the meanings of the word:

  • Present or potential but not evident or active
  • Existing or present but concealed or inactive
  • Potentially existing but not presently evident or realized

Now, think about what the sentence is saying: The psychic is famous for tapping into his powers. If this is what the psychic is known for, then the powers are hardly latent, right? An adjective that would make more sense there would be one like illustrious or acclaimed.

  • Hmm, interesting. It does sound like a pretty feasible argument, I will suggest choosing latent and see how does the kid go in his next class. – j.blade Nov 7 '18 at 12:14
  • Hm, then it wouldn't be a grammar problem, but rather a semantics one. – Mr Lister Nov 7 '18 at 13:01
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    @MrLister There is nothing wrong with the syntax of the sentence. Therefore, the problem can only be one of semantics. – Jason Bassford Nov 7 '18 at 15:44
  • @JasonBassford Good one. Also, I already upvoted J.R.'s answer, but if the issue is that "latent" clashes with "known", why would "latent" be the bad word, and not "known"? (Not that I could think of a word to replace "known" that would make the sentence make sense, but still.) – Mr Lister Nov 7 '18 at 16:40
  • @MrLister - If we regard these problems as infallible nuggets of prescriptive wisdom, we are bound to find shortcomings, errors, and quirks. But if we take them for what they are meant to be – thought-provoking exercises designed to help us get a better command of the language – then we can admit they have some value, flawed as they may be. – J.R. Nov 7 '18 at 17:49

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