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One person is describing something to other three people, and the other 3 are trying to guess what it is. But, in one case, after the description, all three showed their answers written on paper, but no answer was right. However one of them was quite close to the answer.

So, here is the conversation between these people after the description:

A: Who got it right?

B: John came the closest.

But, in another part of the conversation, I also heard "John got the nearest.", which was used for the same circumstance. So, both sentences seemed the same to me in meaning, but I can't make sure if they are both idiomatic.

So, I wondered do both sentences sound idiomatic?

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  • I think you've effectively answered your own question, simply by the fact that you wrote one of them was quite close to the answer (as opposed to ...was quite near the answer or ...got / came close). Commented Jul 28, 2023 at 17:56

2 Answers 2

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All these variations are perfectly idiomatic, and mean exactly the same thing...

1: John came the closest
2: John came the nearest
3: John came closest
4: John came nearest
5: John was the closest
6: John was the nearest
7: John was closest <=== my preferred version
8: John was nearest
9: John got the closest
11: John got the nearest
12: John got closest
13: John got nearest
14: John's answer was nearest
...

Here and here are a couple of usage charts clearly showing that we nearly always used figurative nearest a century ago. By the 1970s we'd switched to closest, but they're both essentially the same "spatial proximity" metaphor, referencing degree of similarity [to the correct answer].

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Yes, both are idiomatic and they mean the same. The only possible difference is that "John got the nearest" could have an unspoken direct object, e.g. "John got the nearest answer". The other could also, but less directly, e.g. "John got the closest to ...".

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