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Sooner or later, you want to leverage Zend_Application better by creating your own resource plugins.

Can leverage above be replaced by utilize?

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As @Marcin says, both words are bad choices here. Rather than leverage/utilize/employ/use Zend_Application better, I'd just enhance it. –  FumbleFingers Oct 15 '11 at 22:35
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Leverage means to use something in such a way that a small amount has a big result, much as a lever lets you move a larger load than you would normally be able to. In terms of the statement, Zend can be made more effective with plug ins. That is to say, the plug in means that your web app gets extra functionality from Zend+plug ins than it would from Zend alone.

It is frequently used in finance to mean that a small amount of money (like a house downpayment) can be used to much greater financial effect, such as buying a house.

Utilize means something completely different. Utilize is often used to mean "use" but it does have a subtly different meaning, specifically, utilize means use effectively. So you can load the Zend framework, but still write all your own code in javascript. But if you utilize it, you use the Zend functions effectively to get the results you want.

Utilize is certainly an widely abused word, but that doesn't mean it can't be used correctly, or should I say utilized correctly.

According to dictionary.com (my emphasis):

utilize
to put to use; turn to *profitable* account: to utilize a stream to power a mill. 

You can make the replacement, but it would change the meaning.

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The difference between utilise and use has been covered here –  FumbleFingers Oct 15 '11 at 22:38
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Yes, but mostly because both are terrible word choices.

Leverage as a verb is either (a) an unnecessary neologism meaning 'to use'; (b) a term for investing with borrowed money, or any economically equivalent act.

'Utilize' is simply an ugly variant of 'use'.

Your choices are between 'use', and 'employ'. I suggest that 'employ' would be better, but in any case the whole sentence is awful ('Sooner or later' + present perfect, 'use/leverage/utilize sth better'). Something better might be 'Eventuallly, you will want to better employ Zend Application, by creating your own resource plugins'.

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+1 Both leverage and utilise is horrible jargon that should be replaced with plain English. I often stop reading text using leverage. –  Hugo Oct 15 '11 at 10:31
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+1. I think make better use of might be OP's best option here. –  onomatomaniak Oct 15 '11 at 11:36
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I'd add a third definition of leverage, which is essentially definition (b) used as a metaphor: to turn a small advantage or opportunity into a large one. –  Peter Shor Oct 15 '11 at 13:21
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