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In Unit 3, lesson A of Perspectives 3 published by Nat Geo Learning, it is stated that we can't use "win" with "world record" and I can't find any explanation about that so please help me out!

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  • 1
    Why not? We can and do.
    – Xanne
    Mar 29, 2022 at 2:12
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    A record isn't a prize. Mar 29, 2022 at 7:55
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    Every construction has rules, and often limited access. Record (in this sense; there are several) as a direct object has to use the verb set, not win. That's because of the metaphor. A record is a recording of something, in this case, a list of extremes in something (like tallest tree or fastest 200 meter run), ranked in order. When a new extreme is reached, the list is reordered by setting the new top in place. If your metaphor is a race instead of a list, you can also break a record, like breaking the tape at the end of a foot race. Mar 29, 2022 at 16:14
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    In English, we usually say: to beat a world record, in sports for example.
    – Lambie
    Mar 29, 2022 at 19:42
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    @Lambie: According to google at least set a world record is 20 times more common than beat a worlds record. I guess that what is more important is that there is a new record rather than your time was better than some old record. "achieve" is also more common than "beat".
    – Tom V
    Mar 29, 2022 at 20:59

6 Answers 6

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I agree with Nat Geo Learning that you can't say

"win a world record"

but you can say

"win with a world record"

The Cambridge dictionary defines the verb to win as coming first in a race or competition or to get a prize. It defines the noun record as a piece of information that is stored and, more specifically, the best or fastest value stored in the case of a world record.

A world record, though very desirable, is not a prize in itself. It is a piece of information. You can say

Set / achieve / break / hold a world record.

"Win with a world record" means to win a race or competition and set a new world record.

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    Note that it's possible to achieve a world record without winning. i.e.: you could get the world record for most points scored by a player in a team sport, but still lose the game if the points scored by all the opposing players combined exceeds the points scored by you and your teammates. Or achieve the world's fastest lap around a track in a race, but still lose the race because you over-exerted on that first lap. Mar 29, 2022 at 13:45
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    Additionally, if you win a race or competition, that's final. You will always be considered the winner of that contest and that can't be taken away (barring extenuating circumstances). But a world record can always be broken. If someone else breaks your record, it is no longer yours.
    – Seth R
    Mar 29, 2022 at 17:35
  • "win with a world record" strikes me as wrong; in a Google search, I don't see many hits, and the one clear hit is on the English title of a Bengali article. "win with a world record time" would be acceptable in my idiolect, or "win, setting a world record". (Note that you can lose, setting a world record in the number of fouls or yards driven or some other property.)
    – prosfilaes
    Mar 29, 2022 at 18:21
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    Also, not all world records are good ones. A quarterback in US football could get the record for "Most times sacked in a game". Bit of a dubious honor maybe... Mar 29, 2022 at 20:26
  • Who says win with a world record, standard English-wise?
    – Lambie
    Mar 30, 2022 at 14:24
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The short answer is the words "win" and "world record" do not correlate, and that's just the way it is. We just don't think of a world record as something you can "win". For a better reason than that, you'd need to know the etymology for the lack of correlation, which is far outside the scope of this website.

Check out this nGrams chart to compare usage in writing.

Now, some native speakers do say "win/won a world record", but it sounds uneducated, and no editor worth their salt would allow it. I found multiple hits in Internet searches, but none from authoritative sources of English like established newspapers. They were mostly clickbait titles of blog articles and YouTube videos.

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    I don’t think that native speakers do say “won a world record.” Looking up the hits for that phrase in Google’s corpus shows that they’re basically all fragments of sentences like, “Mark Spittz won a world-record seven gold medals,” where “world record” is a phrase modifying what was won.
    – Davislor
    Mar 29, 2022 at 20:09
  • There are one or two genuine hits for it, though.
    – Davislor
    Mar 29, 2022 at 20:12
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When I translate "to win the world record" into my mother tongues (Azeri and Persian), it doesn't make sense. I guess winning the world record is something that makes sense in your mother tongue and that's your source of confusion. I just checked all the verbs that collacate with the word "record" in the Oxford Collocations Dictionary and they are:

to hold a record / to establish a record / to set a record / to beat a record / to break a record / to shatter a record / to equal a record

The most common verb that is commonly used with the word record is "break".

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If you want to say, "win a world record," people will know what you mean and won't say anything about it. They will think that you're a bit odd and maybe not a native English speaker because you didn't use the perfect words, but they will still understand you.

If you want to get better at English, spend more time on pronunciation instead. Pronunciation is more important than using the perfect words. Even if you use perfect words but pronounce them with a thick accent, you can still be misunderstood. "Win a world record" is close enough, if you speak it with good pronunciation.

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This is broadly nonsense.

That in 60 years of listening, I've never heard anyone say that doesn't mean it would be wrong; just rather unusual.

I'm from England and I've spent long weeks in US America, Australia and Zimbabwe, among other English-speaking areas.

Of course we could say "win/won a world record".

That we don't is due purely to custom and practice, not to any useful rule.

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  • It's great that you people have the freedom to downvote what I Posted… and can anyone actually suggest something wrong? Apr 3, 2022 at 18:19
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Although we now think of a word 'record' as of something to deal with sports, this word origins are much more humble. A record just means a line written in a some book where these some kind of events get recorded.

So, when someone runs faster than everyone else, a record of this event is made.

If you think of it this way, hopefully it becomes clearer why beating a record is ok, but winning a record is not.

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  • Could you run that through a checker? Is "a word 'record' " what you meant, or "a world record"? Is "something to deal with…" different from "something to do with sports…", or not? When people run, records are made. In itself, how could that matter? When someone runs faster than anyone else ever has, the record(ing) of that event means nothing in itself. What matters is the comparison to other people's past performance. Do you think "record" as noun and verb are not different in English? Apr 3, 2022 at 18:49

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