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I found myself using the phrase "[something] is at my disposal" as a way of indicating that a particular resource is available for my use.

My question arises from the word disposal. It seems to imply that the resource is gone once it is used. As in, "I disposed of the trash".

Another use would be, "He was going to help me, but was already disposed". In that case, it seems to mean "otherwise occupied" or "not currently usable". @mfe pointed out that this usage was incorrect.

So I can say, "The tool is at my disposal". This naturally seems to mean that while I am using it, others probably can not.

If I say, "The firewood is at my disposal". It would mean that I am able to permanently deplete the firewood by using it.

So the question is, if I'm referring to a resource that can not be used up and a particular use of it does not prevent furtherer use (such as a concept in the mind), is it correct to say that it is "at my disposal" simply because I am able to use it?

Its also possible that I'm confusing similar terms. Can anyone help me straighten this out.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

As a correction to your third paragraph, someone who is not available at some point in time is said to be indisposed. I am not sure where "already disposed" is used and deemed correct, if anywhere.

A thing, service, or person at your disposal may be under your control or available at your convenience. The degree varies with context. We sometimes say "at my complete disposal" or "at your utter disposal" to intensify the sense of control.

To dispose of a thing means to handle it as you see fit. Context is derived from the nature of the thing itself. With firewood, it means depleting the supply as you wish. With a task, e.g., "please dispose of this matter," it means to handle or complete it; how you do it is not important to the speaker. In action movies with bad dialog that is meant to sound dark, disposing of someone means to kill them as if they were a bothersome detail.

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"A thing, service, or person at your disposal may be under your control or available at your convenience". Thank you, this makes me understand that the basic answer to my question is "yes, if i'm able to use something (as I see fit), than it is indeed at my disposal". –  logicbird Apr 16 '11 at 22:25

My question arises from the word disposal. It seems to imply that the resource is gone once it is used. As in, "I disposed of the trash".

The verb "dispose" differs from the phrasal verb "dispose of".

dis·pose  (d-spz)
v. dis·posed, dis·pos·ing, dis·pos·es
v.tr.
  1. To place or set in a particular order; arrange.
  2. To put (business affairs, for example) into correct, definitive, or conclusive form.
  3. To put into a willing or receptive frame of mind; incline. See Synonyms at incline.

v.intr.
  To settle or decide a matter.

n. Obsolete
  1. Disposal.
  2. Disposition; demeanor.

Phrasal Verb:
dispose of
  1. To attend to; settle: disposed of the problem quickly.
  2. To transfer or part with, as by giving or selling.
  3. To get rid of; throw out.
  4. To kill or destroy: a despot who disposed of all his enemies, real or imagined.

from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/dispose

A professional soldier at the disposal of a general may prefer to be disposed than disposed of.

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