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When should one use usage instead of use? Examples?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I tend to agree with Peter Shor:

The word prevarication is not in common use.


The word prevarication is not common usage.

(A sentence that presumably refers to some previous use of prevarication in a non-standard way.) Note how dropping the preposition changes the context of the phrase.

A question that can be asked is whether usage has any really useful use, other than for pedants.

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My gut feeling was to agree with you and Peter, but this NGram shows not in common usage is more common than without "in". But neither version is anywhere near as common as not in common use. –  FumbleFingers Dec 14 '11 at 22:01

Usage is how something is used; the fact of something being used is use; the degree to which something is used is utilization.

The word prevarication is not in common usage.
The use of safety belts in mandatory.
The utilization of safety belts has reached 70%.

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I'd agree with the first two definitions there, but I've never heard that the third is true. Can you cite anything for that? –  Daniel Jul 18 '11 at 11:59
I'd disagree with your first example; I'd say "The word prevarication is not in common use." but "The usage of the word prevarication has changed." –  Peter Shor Jul 18 '11 at 21:03

Usage is also more commonly used than use to specify a quantity; for example, electricity usage.

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  • Usage: rules of language

  • Use: meaningful communicative behavior

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