Scientific English as a Foreign Language
Answers to Lesson of October 17, 1997
Improve, Ameliorate, Better

"To improve" is a general verb. "To ameliorate" has the specific meaning of to improve something that is presently bad. One does not use "ameliorate" in the sense of making a good thing better. The Random House CD-ROM Dictionary puts it this way:


Try these. Sometimes more than one word (improve, better, ameliorate) is correct. The word in parentheses is less common, but still correct.

1. "This signal is awful. I shall try to improve (better) the signal-to-noise."
2. "My signal-to-noise is pretty good, but I think that I can improve (better) it still more."
3. "I feel sorry for people in North Korea. I wish I could improve (ameliorate) their situation."
3. "We can improve (better) the paper by adding more data."
4. "By adding a vacuum layer we can improve (better) the terrible thermal insulation."
5. "The proposal lacks substance. How can we improve (better) it?"
6. "The research environment at Company X is stultifying. Don't work there until the conditions improve (ameliorate)."

A couple of young guys in Boulder,
Cooled their gas cloud down colder and colder.
Then with much exhortation,
They hit Bose Condensation,
And beat out their rivals (much older).

-J.P. Dowling

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Created May 6, 1998, by Nancy Burnham and Fred Hutson.