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I think it would be better to rule out first whether the problem is the computer or not.

Is that a correct way to use rule out?

  • Yes, it means eliminate from consideration and it is used correctly in your example. – bruised reed May 23 '15 at 9:45
  • It depends what you want to say. This question would be better formed if you explained your intentions, and then asked if your choice of verb would be suitable. – JMB May 23 '15 at 9:46
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    Maybe it's just me, but the rule out being used in your example, though likely understandable in the context (and I'm not sure about your context), is a bit awkward and unclear. I'd suggest rephrasing it to either rule out the possibility that the computer is the problem (or it's a computer problem or it's the machine's fault*) or rule out the question whether the problem is caused by the computer or not. – Damkerng T. May 23 '15 at 9:53
  • @Damkerng: I think what makes OP's example "unnatural" is that you normally "rule out" a possibility (that one out of multiple alternatives applies), not a question (asking which alternative applies). Thus It's better to first establish whether the computer is faulty or not, or It's better to first rule out the computer being faulty. – FumbleFingers May 23 '15 at 17:02
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To rule something out means to exclude it, to make sure that it is not possible.

I’d say that it is used incorrectly in your example. You could say:

We don’t know what causes the problem. I think it would be better to rule out the computer first.

Or:

I think it would be better to rule out the possibility that the computer is the problem.

So, basically, you can find out whether something is true, but you don’t rule out whether, you rule out something.

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