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Sometime, I am not sure if I use a specific word correctly. I would like to get some sample sentences to learn from.

So, is there a online sample sentence database/search engine?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 15 down vote accepted

You could try using a corpus. For example, a search for copper in the British National Corpus returns 50 random sentences -- simply refresh the page to see another random sample:

http://bnc.bl.uk/saraWeb.php?qy=copper

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Lots of dictionaries offer sample phrases. Merriam-Webster, Wiktionary, and the Free Online Dictionary come to mind. Complete sentences are usually provided to put expressions in context.

And then, of course, there is Google. It allows you to search for sample sentences by using the operators * (wildcard) and ~ (similar word or synonym). For example, if you are not sure which preposition to use in the phrase "he has not covered himself __ glory", you can use the search string "not ~covered * glory".

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Use the BYU Corpus Collection. You will probably find most useful the up-to-date Corpus of Contemporary American English, along with other corpora, such as the Corpus of Historical American English (COHA), the BYU-BNC: British National Corpus, and the TIME Corpus of American English. You can search for sentences with specific words, limit results by formality level (spoken, magazine, newspaper, fiction, academic), search by word class, and find common collocates for words, along with many other features.

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I like netspeak more.

You can search for usages of a single word or a combination of words. It gives you sample sentences and tells you how often each word is used, so you can see what is the most common way to use a word. I was introduced to this website in a writing course about academic writing and I've been using it ever since.

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Vocabulary.com's dictionary provides usage examples of a word from popular magazines and newspapers. Their dictionary service is blazing fast.

Wordnik.com also provides meanings for words as well as sample sentences for those words

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