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

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61
votes
10answers
16k views

When should I use “a” vs “an”?

In the following example, is it appropriate to use a or an as the indefinite article, and why? He ate __ green apple. I know that in the case of just "apple", it would be "an apple," but I've ...
132
votes
17answers
14k views

Is there a correct gender-neutral, singular pronoun (“his” versus “her” versus “their”)?

Is there a pronoun I can use as a gender-neutral pronoun? Each student should save his questions until the end. Each student should save her questions until the end.
48
votes
7answers
70k views

“If I was” or “If I were”. Which is more common, and which is correct?

My question of whether to use if I was or if I were. Which one is incorrect or nonstandard?
14
votes
3answers
1k views

“User accounts” or “users account”

Is it correct to say user accounts or users account when referring to the accounts any user has on a site like this one? In general, in the case of a noun that is used as adjective for the noun that ...
20
votes
6answers
13k 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 ...
35
votes
13answers
8k views

I can run faster than _____. (1) him (2) he?

Consider the sentence "I can run faster than 15 miles per hour." Its meaning is clear and to my eyes obviously grammatically correct. Now let me present some variations that have given me trouble for ...
6
votes
4answers
14k views

How to use “who” vs. “that”

I often get confused when trying to use who vs that. Some examples that often confuse me: That The person that went to the store. The people that went shopping. The persons that went ...
46
votes
12answers
7k views

“Less” vs. “fewer”

I've just received a memo which says (effectively) As more people leave, there will be less people available. I want that word to be fewer. Are there guidelines for which word ought to be used ...
34
votes
3answers
62k views

When should “into” be used rather than “in to,” and vice versa?

"Into" (one word) and "in to" (two words) are frequently confused. In what situations should the former be used? The latter?
47
votes
11answers
3k views

Is “data” considered singular or plural?

Related to this question and this question. My non-native English speaking friend just asked me: Data is ... or Data are ... I said both but that's because I've been desensitized from ...
23
votes
4answers
5k views

“between” vs “among”

Today I was cut off in the middle of the following sentence: "Between Cook, Strauss and Pietersen..." My friend said I was wrong; for more than 2 entities, among/amongst are used. Between is ...
31
votes
6answers
44k views

When do I use “can” or “could”?

When should I use can? When should I use could? What is right under what context?
21
votes
4answers
11k 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, ...
18
votes
2answers
4k views

Using “that” and “this” interchangeably

Learning and using English I'm always confused about what word to use for referring to things that have been described by me a few sentences earlier: "that" or "this". Confusion comes from the fact ...
17
votes
4answers
2k views

When are “if” and “whether” equivalent?

Are if and whether equivalent in sentences like the ones below? How to determine if my saddle is too high? How to determine whether my saddle is too high? We should check if everything ...
7
votes
2answers
447 views

“Nikki's and Alice's X” vs. “Nikki and Alice's X”

Which option is grammatical? There will be readings from Nikki Giovanni’s and Alice Walker’s writings. There will be readings from Nikki Giovanni and Alice Walker's writings. Saying it ...
112
votes
18answers
17k views

What is a feminine version of 'guys'?

I commonly use the word 'guys' to refer to a group of males colloquially. It's colloquial but not rude, off putting, condescending, patronizing (though I wouldn't use it with a group of men at a board ...
19
votes
5answers
1k views

What is the best way to explain how to choose between “its” and “it's”?

Probably one of the most frequent grammar mistakes in the English language is: The dog sat on it's mat. Since spelling checkers don't catch it, and it is even logical, since you would correctly ...
38
votes
5answers
149k views

“More clear” vs “Clearer”: when to use “more” instead of “-er”?

Which one of these adjectives is correct? I can see that both of them are being used, I'm just not sure which one is grammatically correct. Are there any general rules to follow as to the use of one ...
34
votes
3answers
5k views

Alternatives to “and/or”?

As a programmer, I have no problem with seeing or using "and/or" in technical documentation. For example, I can upvote an answer that satisfies me and/or mark it as accepted. That's perfectly ...
18
votes
9answers
3k views

What is the name of the first decade in a century?

80s the "Eighties" 90s the "Nineties" 00s the ??? For that matter, what is the second decade called? The "tens" just doesn't sound right.
20
votes
3answers
9k views

Person, Persons, People, Peoples

Can you please clarify the relation and differences between these nouns? For example, is it proper to use "persons" instead of "people"? Are they the same? As I believe that "people" is plural, how ...
12
votes
2answers
8k views

Can “due to” and “because of ” be used interchangeably?

Is it fine to use due to in place of because of ? How about the other way around? Are any of these sentences ungrammatical? He was lost because of the storm. He was lost due to the storm. He lost ...
36
votes
10answers
10k views

When should I use “shall” versus “will”?

Which is the correct use of these two words, and in which context should one be used rather than the other?
17
votes
4answers
57k views

Difference between “I have got” and “I have gotten”

I see these two expressions are used almost identically in different contexts. Is there a difference between I have got and I have gotten?
3
votes
4answers
648 views

Avoiding “existential it” while referring to a past event?

I know the use of "existential it" is frowned upon, but I'm not entirely sure how to rephrase the following sentence to remove it: It is hard to tell what would have occurred if the battle had ...
27
votes
8answers
10k views

Is there a subtle difference between “somebody” and “someone”, “anybody” and “anyone”?

Are there any subtle differences between "somebody" and "someone", or can they be used completely interchangeably? Similarly, can you imagine a situation in which you would prefer "anybody" to ...
22
votes
5answers
5k 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" ...
17
votes
5answers
6k views

Types of things vs. types of thing

When speaking precisely or technically, one would say that "Homo erectus and homo sapiens are two species of hominid" rather than "Homo erectus and homo sapiens are two species of hominids." The ...
16
votes
5answers
25k views

Is “either” only used with two options?

Does “either . . . or” apply to only two options? For example, can I say, “It can provide either 100, 150, or 400 amps of power”? Or should it just be “It can provide 100, 150, or 400 amps of ...
16
votes
3answers
23k views

Which is correct: “This is her” or “This is she”?

Upon answering the telephone, the person calling asks if Joan is available. If Joan is the person who answered the phone, should she say "This is her" or "This is she"?
30
votes
4answers
10k views

When are “because”, “since”,“for” and “as” interchangeable?

I am not a native speaker. On a previous question of mine, I thanked for an answer by saying: So the phrase is not an idiom, since it is applied in its literal sense. I consciously chose since ...
7
votes
6answers
46k views

“Can/may/will you help me with this?”

Which word to use when we ask for help? Some conditions: We know that the person asked is able to do it. We don't know if the person asked is able to do it.
24
votes
11answers
20k views

What does “a couple” mean to you, and what does “a few” mean to you?

What does “a couple” mean to you, and what does “a few” mean to you? Is there a proper way to use it? It was striking to hear that “a couple” meant two (2) to someone. My reaction was, “how/why do ...
0
votes
3answers
571 views

John, Valencia, and I (or me)? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicates: Should I Put Myself Last (“me and you” vs “you and me”)? When do I use “I” instead of “me?” Who wants ice-cream? ...
76
votes
8answers
6k views

Which is correct: “__ is different from __” or “__ is different than __”?

As someone who learned English later on in life, I was taught that different from is the correct grammar to use: this is different from that. However, it seems these days everyone uses different than ...
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.
15
votes
7answers
34k views

What is the difference between “nothing but”, “anything but”, and “everything but”?

What is the difference between these phrases? When is it valid to use which? Should they be avoided as being ambiguous?
16
votes
1answer
6k views

Words pertaining to the senses and the corresponding disabilities

I need help on finding words relating to the senses/perception. I mean this in a neuronic/biological or philosophy-of-mind kind of way. A word for... pertaining to the senses (Is it sensory?) ...
5
votes
5answers
3k views

Which one is more correct: “works at a university” or “works in a university”?

My relative is a fairly big academic and works at a university. Is this correct? or should I have used in instead?
3
votes
2answers
2k views

Does “the same number of people” behave as singular or plural?

This hurts my eyes to read it and my ears to say it, but the writer stands by item #43 About the same number of people was awarded bachelor's degrees in 2010 as filed for personal bankruptcy ...
23
votes
2answers
209k views

“Dear Sir or Madam” versus “To whom it may concern”

When is it appropriate to use the terms Dear Sir or Madam and To whom it may concern? The rules I was taught state that Dear Sir or Madam should be used when you're writing a letter to a person about ...
13
votes
6answers
15k views

Difference between “commentor” and “commentator”

What is the difference between commentor and commentator? Is commentor or commenter a legitimate English word?
5
votes
2answers
9k views

“Studying PhD at the university” or “studying PhD in the university”?

Which of these two sentences is correct: I am studying PhD at the university. I am studying PhD in the university. Should I use "at" or "in"? Or is there no difference?
12
votes
5answers
10k views

“In the Internet” vs. “on the Internet”

When should I use "in the Internet" and when "on the Internet"?
5
votes
1answer
898 views

Conditional sentences not starting with “if”

Were I rich, I would live on Long Island. If I were rich, I would live on Long Island. Is the first sentence still used, or is used in particular contexts (in example, to give emphasis to the ...
3
votes
2answers
2k views

What is the difference in meaning between “I play” and “I do play”? [closed]

What is the difference between I play and I do play? For example: If someone were to ask to me, do you play soccer?
11
votes
5answers
10k views

“Catch” vs “Take” a Bus/Train

Could anyone help me with finding the difference between saying "catch a bus/train/etc" and "take a train/bus/etc"? I'm afraid I haven't been able to glean one from my dictionary.
4
votes
3answers
785 views

Is it “5–6 weeks are a lot of time” or “5–6 weeks is a lot of time”?

I was just copyediting somebody's answer on another SE site and my native English speaker Sprachgefühl told me I had to correct the grammar of one sentence: ... 5–6 weeks are a lot of time ... ...
1
vote
0answers
564 views

Other ways of saying whichs [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: 'Which', 'whose' or something else? Of course there isn't a word whichs (as far as I know), but I am talking about the possessive form of which. ...