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The Free Dictionary lists particular and specific as synonyms, but there still seems to be a subtle distinction between the two. What is that distinction?

In a phrase along the lines of:

the [particular/specific] card selected from the deck

is there any meaningful difference, or should I just use whichever sounds best?

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closed as general reference by FumbleFingers, Robusto, tchrist, coleopterist, MετάEd Dec 11 '12 at 4:53

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

The Oxford English Dictionary has seven main definitions for particular, with numerous sub-headings. Much the same goes for specific. It all depends on the effect you are trying to achieve within the wider context. Even when words appear to be synonyms, it is often the case that they collocate differently. – Barrie England Dec 10 '12 at 16:21
There are very few (if any) exact synonyms. Synonyms don't have to replace each othe absolutely everywhere. So these two are synonyms, but there are probably places where you'd prefer one over the other. But using the two together would be a pleonasm. – Mitch Dec 10 '12 at 16:34
I'm voting to close as General Reference. In OP's particular context, (or specific - take your pick, but note that particular is more common), the two words are effectively synonyms. But when we're asking for more context here on ELU, we'd always say "You need to be more specific", because "You need to be more particular" means you need to be more discriminating/fastidious. They're not always synonyms. – FumbleFingers Dec 10 '12 at 20:01
@FumbleFingers: collocates and connotations are exactly the sort of information you can't look up in the dictionary. This is a very well formed word choice question that is not general reference at all. – Marthaª Dec 11 '12 at 1:20
@FumbleFingers, whereas I think these kinds of questions are a valuable addition not just to this site, but to the internet as a whole. Please stop closing questions just because you personally don't like them. – Marthaª Dec 11 '12 at 16:49