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A good candidate

But what if the candidate has the potential (n) to be good?

Should I say

  1. A potentially good candidate

or

  1. A potential good candidate

or

  1. A good potential candidate

In No.1, the adverb potentially modifies the adjective good. In No.2, the adjective potential modifies the noun – candidate while in No.3, the adjective good modifies the noun phrase potential candidate.

Are all three sentences correct or is one of the three “more“ grammatically correct?

  • In no. 2, potential modifies candidate (as you say) and good does that too - they do it individually, no? If that is the case, shouldn't there be a comma after potential? I feel that in no. 2 you can switch the order - but I can't tell what it means. – AIQ Nov 13 '19 at 9:39
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"Potentially" is an adverb; so, if someone or something is potentially good, that means they have the potential to be good. The adverb operates on the adjective "good".

"Potential", in this context, would be an adjective. Saying someone is "a potential good candidate" would mean that they are both potential and good. It would be the same as saying they are "a good potential candidate".

Although people do sometimes use the word "potential" in isolation (eg "he is a potential") they only do so in context, when it is clear what they are potentially lined up for. However, the definition of "candidate" implies that they are only "a potential" for something, so to say they are "a potential" and "a candidate*" is something of a tautology.

  • But I am asking how to describe a candidate who could potentially be a good one in three words (excluding the article). I could say that someone is "a good potential candidate", could I not? – Mari-Lou A Nov 13 '19 at 11:05
  • I've edited the question. Thanks for supplying an answer. – Mari-Lou A Nov 13 '19 at 11:10
  • @Astralbee Is it incorrect to put the word "do" after "sometimes"?: "Although people sometimes do use the word"... – Boyep Feb 7 at 17:13

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