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They can be more perfect than is convenient.

I search several dictionaries but can't find any explanation of the phrase of more perfect than is convenient How should I understand this phrase?

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  • What is the context? I find from searching that this phrase appears on some Chinese websites without context. But it isn't an idiom.
    – James K
    May 2 at 7:23
  • @JamesK Please visit this website: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/197664/…
    – Y. zeng
    May 2 at 7:35
  • 1
    Thanks. That is clearly a test that has been constructed by a non-native speaker. The irony is that the phrase in the question is easy to understand. "Too perfect". The phrase in the multiple choice is odd. In particular the use of the word "convenient" is surely an example of "translationese.
    – James K
    May 2 at 7:53
  • So, how to comprehend this phrase?@JamesK
    – Y. zeng
    May 2 at 7:55
  • See my answer below and the other answer(s). They explain how to comprehend this phrase.
    – James K
    May 2 at 8:06
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This is a slightly odd phrase. Rephrasing, this means there is an inconvenience because "they" are too perfect. How to interpret this phrase is going to depend heavily on the context. For example, this could imply the speaker finds someone's obsession with perfection to be somewhat annoying, and is trying to state this in a polite way.

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  • An obsession with perfection can be a problem in situations where timely delivery of projects is important. May 2 at 10:11
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The expression is odd, but it has no special meaning.

The structure can be explained with a different example. Suppose there is a school rule that "essays must be less than 5000 words". Longer essays are not allowed. Then if I write an essay that is 6000 words, it is too long and you can say

That essay is longer than is allowed

So in your example, if very perfect things (or people) are not convenient. And those things can be very perfect, then they can be too perfect and you could say:

They can be more perfect than is convenient.

But the idea that very perfect things are not convenient doesn't make much sense. So the sentence, is grammatically correct, but practically meaningless.

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  • I am reminded of Voltaire's dictum that le mieux est l'ennemi du bien (the best is the enemy of the good) which should probably be said at the start of project-management meetings. May 2 at 10:10

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