There's a passage in a commercial that got stuck on my brains and after a few gazillions of repeated listening, I realized that I see a hidden, grammatical gem in there. Please note that since it's a spoken content so the punctuation is ambiguous and hard to infer (by other means than the context, which I wish to neglect).

I can do anything you can do better.

By context, it's implied that the speaker claims to be able to perform any action that the recipient is able to do. Not only that. The speaker can perform each such an action in a better way than what the recipient can.

Now, to the gemmy part. If we look at the text purely grammatically, isn't it possible to see the message claiming that, although the speaker can mimic any action the recipient is able to perform, there is the implication of the latter carrying it out at a better performance?

Is that the only strictly grammatically correct interpretation or is this an linguistically ambiguous spot?


I would expect the following two sentences bear different meanings.

I can do anything you can do better.
I can do anything you can do, better.

  • It appears to me to be a misquoting of the song, which doesn't make much sense. Jun 9 '21 at 7:22
  • @KateBunting It seems that you're referring to the link Ronald provided. I have not requested it, it provides no context for my question and, apparently, creates confusion. Please let me emphasize the first sentence of the question where I refer to a commercial that got stuck. Whether it's a spin-off of an older song, I don't know. What I refer to is the correctly quoted part of the ad. In fact, the actual question may do well without mentioning the circumstances. I've been advised before to provide a bit of info around my questions, though. Jun 9 '21 at 7:32
  • I meant that the ad seems to be (deliberately?) misquoting the song, which is therefore not irrelevant to the question. Jun 9 '21 at 8:03
  • @KateBunting I see your point. I haven't heard the original and it's still an assumption that the song in the commercial relates to the discussed original (although I wouldn't discard it as unlikely, of course). Never the less, the commercial says the thing in several ways, only one of which got stuck as an ear bug. So I don't think Volvo attempts to misquote anything. It's just that my question regards a smaller, out-of-context piece of the text. And it's purely academic as to whether the grammar allows for a different interpretation without consideration to plausibility. Jun 9 '21 at 14:04
  • @KateBunting Undeniably, the formulation of the question was less than perfect as it caused misunderstanding. So I chose to edit it a bit to remove the confusion triggers. Please feel welcome to take a look. Jun 9 '21 at 14:07

It's a sentence with an established meaning in English, since it resembles a popular song intended to resemble childish speech. It means
For anything that you can do, I can do it better than you can.

Any other interpretation is implausible.

The switch from bragging (I can do anything) to concession (but you do it better) doesn't make sense.


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