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The question from the test:

The atmosphere ___________ to extend several hundred kilometers above the Earth.
a. proves
b. has been proved
c. is proved

Sentences with the blank filled with each option can be found using Google in various materials for learning English, so maybe all of them are possible. However this answer https://ell.stackexchange.com/a/6513/10667 says:

The perfect version is used when you're talking about something proved in the past.

So I've chosen (b) and it was the wrong answer. What is the correct one?

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    You probably don't want any of those "proof-based" metaphorical usages. Generally, the construction X proved to be Y is only used where prior to being thoroughly investigated, X was not thought to be Y (i.e. - where the investigation overturned previously-held beliefs). A more common version of OP's example, without so much of that potentially unwanted implication, is "The atmosphere was found to extend several hundred kilometers". Or was shown. – FumbleFingers Sep 30 '14 at 15:46
  • @FumbleFingers But it's a test question, so (per the test), one answer with prove/proven is ostensibly correct. – user6951 Sep 30 '14 at 15:50
  • @CarSmack, Lots of test questions are poorly constructed.... – Hellion Sep 30 '14 at 15:54
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    @CarSmack: If it's a "test question" then it's a stupid test, set by a stupid and/or ignorant examiner. All the alternatives (plus b and c using proven) are perfectly grammatical. Only a more clearly-defined context could allow us to rule some versions in or out. – FumbleFingers Sep 30 '14 at 15:55
  • I specifically did not speak to the quality of either the question or to the possible answers. Note the word ostensibly. – user6951 Sep 30 '14 at 16:02
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Without any other context, (b) is the best option. "The atmosphere has been proved to extend several hundred kilometers above the Earth" does the best job of providing the necessary context within the sentence.

"The atmosphere proves to extend several hundred kilometers above the Earth" would sound better if it were preceded by a statement like "When measured using radio-scattering technology".

"The atmosphere is proved to extend several hundred kilometers above the Earth" would sound better if it were preceded by a statement like "In the work of Professor Braun".

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