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I recently heard the phrase "The matches were contesting" after a game in which both teams fought equally well. Then others started pointing that the phrase is grammatically incorrect. I'm wondering, who was right in that case. And if the phrase was incorrect, then what would be a correct way of putting a similar statement?

  • Maybe contesting is old-fashioned. I think we can say very competitive matches, competing teams, etc. – Khan Aug 14 '15 at 5:07
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The dictionary definition of the verb 'to contest' does not seem to have an entry that would serve as an explanation. Perhaps the speaker thought "to contest" is a synonym to "to challenge", and the matches were rather challenging for both teams (hoping to mean "difficult"). However, 'to contest' means 'to challenge' not in the sense "make difficult", but in the sense "to call for a duel or a fight" (as in "I challenge you to a dance-off").

I am on the side of those who call out the incorrect use of "contesting". A better word perhaps would be "trying" or "challenging", although they don't really convey the equal performance of the teams, but rather that due to the other team's level's being equal, winning wasn't easy for either side.

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