The archaeologists have been unable to discover her identity.

The archaeologists have not been able to discover her identity.

What is the difference between them?

  • one of them scans nicely. – WendyG Jun 4 '19 at 8:44
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    The second sentence sounds less doomed and leaves more hope for future :) – Alex_ander Jun 4 '19 at 9:15
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    There is no essential difference in terms of semantics. It's simply a stylistic difference—which is subjective. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Jun 4 '19 at 19:49

The meaning is not significantly different between the two, and both are grammatically correct. "have been unable" suggests more finality than "have not been able", unless it is qualified with "so far" or "to date" or some similar phrase. The choice is, as Jason Bassford says, a matter of style.

  • If it is qualified with 'so far', which is better, 'have been unable' or 'have not been able'? – Y. zeng Jun 5 '19 at 13:54
  • @Y. zeng In that case i don't perceive any difference of meaning or nuance. – David Siegel Jun 5 '19 at 13:58

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