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These two words are often used interchangeably and the greatest difference I can find between the two is "choose" for choosing multiple items from a set, and "select" for selecting a single item from a set. Are there other qualifiers to consider and is this singular/plural distinction on the right track?

So, really, what is the difference between the two, if any?

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I don't think so. There is really nothing strange in the thought of "selecting three items" from a list (for instance). The only distinction that comes to mind is context: one might be less inclined to say they "selected" the left fork in the road, but this has nothing to do with quantity... –  horatio Feb 17 '11 at 16:40
    
horatio, if nothing to do with quantity, then what makes the distinction between the two, if any? –  user5163 Feb 17 '11 at 16:48
    
I would rather not say, because I haven't thought much about it (which is why I didn't make an answer). My instinct is that they can be used interchangeably. –  horatio Feb 17 '11 at 16:53
    
I do agree with what others have said, but I would add that select can imply some notion of competition, while choose does not. For example, I would say “Harvard selects the best students based on essays”, and substituting chooses in that sentence would look bad. –  F'x Feb 17 '11 at 19:27
    
Btw: this question is tagged word-choice –  Jo So Aug 6 at 1:34

3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Select means "to carefully choose"; it also means "to use a mouse or keystrokes to mark something on a computer screen."

In both the cases, the number of things chosen or marked does not influence which verb is used.

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I think this is indeed the case, selecting something seems more well thought over then choosing something. Choosing seems more random then selecting. –  Timo Willemsen Feb 17 '11 at 17:25

In addition to what you said,

According to Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English

Select is more formal than choose, and in everyday English, people usually say choose rather than select.

Also there's a homophone for choose which is chews.

According to Merriam-Webster

  • choose: to have a preference for or to select freely and after consideration

  • select: to choose (as by fitness or excellence) from a number or group

I checked some other sources. In all of them the difference between select and choose is not considered important. so I think maybe it's a better idea not to be fussy about it!

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note also that "a choice [item]" means "a [really good] [premium] [excellent] [carefully selected] item" which (again) points to a very strong similarity in meaning and usage. –  horatio Feb 17 '11 at 17:19

Selection is done after evaluation of some qualities of something.

Choose is done based on self interest and preference about something.

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This answer can be improved by citing facts and references that demonstrate its correctness. –  MετάEd Sep 17 '12 at 13:53

protected by RegDwigнt Sep 17 '12 at 10:46

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