This tag is for questions about choosing the best word from a given selection for a particular context or meaning.

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26
votes
12answers
7k views

Do the words “jail” and “prison” refer to different things?

In everyday speech, the terms jail and prison are used interchangeably in many situations. However, my understanding is that, at least in the US, they actually refer to slightly different things. For ...
26
votes
15answers
7k views

A word for: someone who is easy to talk to

I want to convey the idea that such and such person is very easy to talk to. I know that: 'talk to-able' is not a word, obviously. I can always say, "He is very easy to talk to." But I am looking ...
26
votes
4answers
9k views

What do you call a man who knows well how to fix his household appliances?

Some men are really good at fixing things, especially the household appliances while they're not specialists or technician. Is there any words to explain these people?
26
votes
6answers
3k views

To hear something makes it audible, to see is visible, so what are touch and smell?

As the title states, if sound is audible, light is visible, what is a smell? And what is an object when you touch it?
26
votes
4answers
8k views

Is two-thirds plural?

Is 2/3 always, sometimes or never plural? E.g. 1a) 2/3 of the pizza were eaten. 1b) 2/3 of the pizza was eaten. 2a) 2/3 of the visitors were men. 2b) 2/3 of the visitors was men. I ...
26
votes
7answers
62k views

What is the difference between 'make decision' and 'take decision'?

What is the difference between make decision and take decision? When to use the one and when the other?
25
votes
13answers
4k views

What's it called? A kind of impoliteness

A person (e.g. your brother-in-law) who enters your house without being invited, opens your fridge without asking, etc. Not just "impolite" of course, something more specific and informal
25
votes
5answers
2k views

Are 'accuracy' and 'precision' interchangeable nouns?

The dictionary for accuracy says: The quality or state of being correct or precise. The ability to perform a task with precision. And for precision: The quality, condition, or ...
25
votes
12answers
4k views

Is there a word that describes a statement whose negative is senseless or would otherwise never be used?

Consider the statement "I like to have fun" or "I like to spend time with my friends". These border on tautologies though I don't think they would be considered as such by most. Although these ...
25
votes
11answers
4k views

Person who fills out a form - single word

What single word would I use to describe a person who fills out a form? So if Abigail fills out a form she is a... whatever the term should be. The form is an application but the applicant does not ...
25
votes
6answers
11k views

What is the difference between “archetype” and “prototype”?

I'm very confused by the difference between "archetype" and "prototype", and even more baffled when to use which. Can someone clarify?
25
votes
11answers
52k views

“Based on” instead of “based off of”

I sometimes see cases where off is followed by of, and it sounds awkward to me. For example, I would prefer This story is based on a true story. to This story is based off of a true story. ...
25
votes
5answers
12k views

Why is it “your Majesty”, but “my Lord”?

Why is it "your Majesty", but "my Lord"?
25
votes
2answers
3k views

Which is correct: “math” or “maths”?

Which one is considered correct? I say "math", however I believe I heard somewhere that "maths" is correct. Also, should it (and "mathematics") be capitalized or not?
25
votes
4answers
3k views

“Bad with something” or “bad at something”?

In a question on Spanish.StackExchange, a question came up about expressing that you are bad at remembering or doing something. Is one "bad at something" or "bad with something" (nouns)? What about ...
25
votes
5answers
7k views

Is it acceptable to use “is become” instead of “has become”?

In the King James version of the Bible there is a verse like this: The Lord is my strength, and my fortress, and my song. And He is become my salvation. Is it still feasible to use "is become" ...
25
votes
5answers
118k views

Use of 'as per' vs 'per'

I've read and have heard of both 'as per' and 'per' being used conversationally, both with the same connotation of either 'according to' or 'on authority of' Examples: "Tell Ron to start molding new ...
24
votes
8answers
74k views

What's the difference in meaning between “emigrate” and “immigrate”?

What's the difference between emigrate and immigrate? They seem to have the same definitions in the dictionary but they are antonyms...  
24
votes
3answers
25k views

“Maximum” vs. “maximal”

What is the difference in usage between maximum and maximal? When would you use one or the other? Maximum can be a noun or an adjective: This is the maximum it can be set to. This is the ...
24
votes
6answers
25k views

Difference between “invoice” and “bill”?

I am talking about something you should pay. "Invoice" here doesn't mean the proof of payment. Sometimes I am told to pay my "bill", and sometimes they may refer to the similar paper (physical or ...
24
votes
1answer
46k views

Which is correct: “feedback is welcome” or “feedback is welcomed”?

I am used to write feedback is welcome. Is that correct, or should I write feedback is welcomed? Why?
23
votes
9answers
7k views

How do you politely ask for someone's gender? [closed]

If you, for example, have to add a person to an application whilst that person is on the phone, how do you politely ask for that person's gender if the voice and/or name has not proven decisive? To ...
23
votes
9answers
3k views

What is it called when something you previously took to be a mistake turned out to be the correct decision?

Sometimes your “mistake” results in a big success, or you find out that it actually was the correct way of doing it. I sarcastically call this a “correct mistake”. What do you call it? I don’t know if ...
23
votes
6answers
57k views

How should I ask for a bill in a restaurant politely?

I used to say check please, but my English teacher said that it's wrong, and the proper way is to say something like bill please. What's the truth?
23
votes
7answers
33k views

Is “substract” (versus “subtract”) a proper word?

I read an article recently where the author used "substract" instead of "subtract". I'm more familiar with the latter word but after doing a bit of googling, it seems that both words are being used, ...
23
votes
5answers
7k views

Why should I use “ought to”?

Is "ought to" still used in modern English? If yes, in what contexts is it used, and is it used more in formal or informal cases?
23
votes
4answers
18k views

Why do we say “was supposed to” for “should have”?

I was supposed to do my homework, but I went out clubbing instead. On a literal interpretation, supposed to suggests that other people (or indeed, myself) might have supposed (thought, imagined, ...
23
votes
2answers
2k views

Why “Jesu” rather than “Jesus” in this carol?

Why does this bit of O Come, All Ye Faithful use Jesu rather than Jesus? Yea, Lord, we greet thee Born this happy morning Jesu, to thee be glory given Am I right in my thinking that Jesus is ...
23
votes
3answers
184k views

What is a good way to remind someone to reply to your email?

Sometimes some of the emails to people senior to you in the company are left unanswered. What are the ways to politely remind the person that he needs to reply to your email (which he might have ...
23
votes
7answers
2k views

When did “while” and “whilst” become interchangeable?

I think most folk happily use either "while" or "whilst". I've a vague recollection that at one time "while" indicated the passing of time and "whilst" was essentially the same as "whereas" or ...
22
votes
11answers
3k views

Way to describe entering old password out of habit?

Recently I changed my password on my computer but for the past few days I keep entering the old one when trying to log in or unlock it. Is there a word or phrase in to describe this? Another example ...
22
votes
16answers
4k views

Is there a word for this clever piece of marketing?

I was shopping the other day when I decided to buy some Cranberry juice - you know, juice from cranberries - so I picked up what I thought was exactly that. It was only when I got home that I realised ...
22
votes
4answers
26k views

“Sit in a chair” vs. “sit on a chair”

What is the correct usage? I know you sit 'on' a sofa/couch. What about chair?
22
votes
9answers
2k views

Has “aught” survived in common usage?

In a movie that I watched recently, I heard- for aught I know, for aught I care. I work with a lot of native speakers, and they all told me it's not in formal or informal usage anymore. ...
22
votes
3answers
6k views

What is the “‑cide” word for killing one’s husband?

We have uxoricide for killing one’s wife, but what is the equivalent term for killing one’s husband? Similarly, what is the husband-specific equivalent for the adjective uxorial?
22
votes
9answers
63k views

Is “errored” correct usage?

If "errored" is not a valid word, then how should I say: The program errored at line 44 I guess I could say: The program threw an error at line 44 But why is "errored" wrong? Is there a ...
22
votes
3answers
3k views

“This question has been asked at Stack Overflow” vs. “on Stack Overflow”

How should I phrase it: This question has been asked at Stack Overflow. Or, This question has been asked on Stack Overflow.
22
votes
7answers
64k views

“Insecure” or “unsecure” when dealing with security?

Which is the appropriate word to be used in the sentence: The system we were testing was determined to be insecure/unsecure. The usage is in the context of security, specifically a lack ...
22
votes
6answers
98k views

“Call me through/at/on this number”

What is the difference between the following when referring to telephone calls? Please call me on this number. You can reach me on this number. Please call me at this number. You can reach ...
22
votes
3answers
61k views

Which is correct: coming down the “pike” or “pipe”?

Is the expression "coming down the pike" or "coming down the pipe"? I've always used pike, but I've heard a few people use pipe recently. I can see how both could make sense, but which is correct?
22
votes
3answers
48k views

“Each other” vs. “one another”

When should I use each other and when should I use one another?
21
votes
13answers
3k views

Word to describe a computer system that is more error accepting?

I am looking for a word to describe a computer system or program or software that allows more erroneous inputs while still running fine instead of hanging easily. I was thinking of "forgiving" but ...
21
votes
9answers
3k views

What word means centered about death?

I'm writing an essay about Don DiLillo's novel White Noise, and would like to explore Murray Jay Siskand's fascination with death. The particular word I'm looking for means "death-centric", to fit in ...
21
votes
14answers
14k views

What do you call someone who is always asking for favours?

What can I call someone (a friend) who is always asking for favours such as: if you are going downtown, can you buy this for me please or, can you lend me your car for an hour or, if you have some ...
21
votes
7answers
2k views

Why “Greater Toronto” rather than “Great Toronto”

Many big cities have their names preceded by Greater. Why not just Great? Does Greater indicate that the city is ambitious to expand itself? Why is Greater not used for country names such as Great ...
21
votes
7answers
14k views

Difference between “the very first” and “first”

I have the sentence: Who wrote the very first dictionary ever? Is it any different from Who wrote the first dictionary ever? I don't get how something could be more first.
21
votes
5answers
7k views

Is “what on earth” still commonly used in real life? Is there any alternative that is not cursing or obscene?

I'm a non-native speaker. When I was at school, we were taught that "on earth" is used for emphasis in questions such as: What on earth are you talking about? However, from my experience ...
21
votes
5answers
8k views

Are there any words I can use to disambiguate “biweekly”?

We have two words for events occurring in periods of years - biannual meaning twice a year, and biennial meaning once every two years. However, my colleagues talk about having meetings biweekly. This ...
21
votes
6answers
18k views

“Who wants ice-cream?” — Should I say “(not) I” or “(not) me”?

With the enthusiastic question of "Who wants ice-cream?", what is the more correct response? (Not) I. (Not) me. Neither response is a sentence. The first response of "(not) I" sounds ...
21
votes
13answers
11k views

What is a word for a person who throws a “fake smile”?

Most people, especially receptionists and air hostesses have the ability to smile in a fake way. Being professional, their smile isn't real. Inside they cry and die a thousand dead of tensions but ...