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Your English is as good as Shakespeare

...told me an online test that assessed my vocabulary. However, I think the structure of this comparison is wrong. It should rather be 'your English is as good as that of Shakespeare,' right? Or are there any other ways to express such comparisons?

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  • It's a bit of a strange thing to say. Yeah - many aspiring writers might wish their efforts were as well regarded as Shakespeare's. But if you actually wrote or spoke in Shakespearean English today, people would think you were really weird! Plus oftentimes they simply wouldn't understand you. English has changed a lot over the past four centuries! Also note that Shakespeare wasn't particularly concerned with "correct" English (at least, in writing) . We've got several copies of his name written in his own hand, where he never used the same spelling twice. Commented Nov 16, 2022 at 17:25
  • Does this answer your question? I know the error. I just don't know why it is an error? Commented Nov 16, 2022 at 18:30
  • @MarcInManhattanit certainly doesn't. To be honest, I don't get it why you assumed it could be relevant :) Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 10:36

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The structure of a sentence like that should generally have a possessive - "Your English is as good as Shakespeare's [English is]". Consider the difference between "My dog is as ugly as your mother's [dog is]", versus "My dog is as ugly as your mother" - very different meanings!

In this particular instance, however, "Shakespeare" can mean the person himself, but since he is such a famous and prolific author, "Shakespeare" can also refer to his collective works rather than the person. "I'm performing Shakespeare" does not mean you are doing an impression, but rather performing a work by Shakespeare. With this in mind, the sentence as written could be interpreted as "Your English is as good as [the works of] Shakespeare."

Your rewording of the sentence is grammatical and correct, but it sounds a bit wordy and formal. I wouldn't expect that phrasing in everyday conversation.

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    I agree except your last comment.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 16, 2022 at 17:23
  • I agree with @Lambie, and I'll just add that even though "Shakespeare" could mean "a work by Shakespeare" (or something similar), someone who was trying to write clearly should make it clear and not force the reader to disambiguate. Commented Nov 16, 2022 at 18:24
  • @Lambie Do you disagree that the OP's sentence is grammatical, or that it's clunky? I can find published works with similar construction (e.g., "His face is as unlined as that of a younger man"), but I find it a bit wordy as the same sentiment can be expressed with less text. Commented Nov 16, 2022 at 18:37
  • I agree with this post and with Lambie. Personally, if I wanted to express this idea I would say, "Your English is as good as Shakespeare's." "... that of Shakespeare" is correct. I would say it sounds very formal rather than "clunky", but whatever.
    – Jay
    Commented Nov 16, 2022 at 19:41

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