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There was one question in my English exam that made confused me.

Instruction: Rewrite this sentence in another way so that it means almost the same as the first one

Tom is the best tennis player in the club.

→ No one else in the club can ...

I wrote: No one else in the club can play tennis better than Tom. But my teacher didn't agree and said my sentence was wrong. She corrected: No one else in the club can play tennis as well as Tom.

Is there any difference between my sentence and my teacher's?

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    "... so that it means almost the same ..." One could argue that it would be wrong if your sentence meant exactly the same thing. Dec 9 '20 at 10:09
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Your answer

No one else in the club can play tennis better than Tom

would be true if there was one or more people who could play exactly as well as Tom.

Your teacher's answer

No one else in the club can play tennis as well as Tom.

implies nobody can play as well as him so rules out anybody playing exactly as well as him. If one wanted to be really pedantic here it does not rule out people playing better that him it only rules out exact equality. Since the original sentence said he was the best, not one of the best, she is technically correct.

Having said all that I suspect that most native speakers reading your version would understand it to mean what you thought. Indeed it is hard to see how two players could be exactly equal on such a task.

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  • But if there is anyone who plays as well as Tom, the first sentence should be 'Tom is one of the best tennis player in the club. If he is "the best" then there is only one, and it is him.
    – tiger745
    Dec 8 '20 at 15:33
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    Exactly. That is what mdewey is saying. 🙂 Your teacher is technically correct, but most people would understand your answer too. In my opinion, this question is really about math and logic. It's the difference between greater-than (>) and greater-than-or-equal-to (≥).
    – musicin3d
    Dec 9 '20 at 0:26
  • If one wanted to be even more pedantic, one could argue that playing better than him implicitly requires also being able to play exactly as well as him (continuing for a moment the illusion that it makes sense to rank two different tennis players exactly equally), which would make the teacher’s answer incontrovertibly correct again. Barring that, the only truly way to rewrite the sentence according to the instructions would be to be redundant: “No one else in the club can play tennis as well as or better than Tom”, but no one would say such things in normal English. Dec 9 '20 at 1:35
  • You cannot have a draw in tennis. There is always a winner and a loser. The game always decides that one player is better. There are no equals. (I know the question is about english and not tennis)
    – Mr_Thyroid
    Dec 9 '20 at 11:33
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Yes there is! No one else in the club can play tennis better than Tom leaves the possibility of someone else playing as well as Tom, in which case Tom would be one of the best, not the best.

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