This tag is for questions about choosing the best word FROM A GIVEN SELECTION for a particular context or meaning. The selection to choose from will appear in the question.

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235
votes
38answers
91k views

Is there a non-sexual phrase for sleeping with someone?

The phrase "sleeping with someone" often means "having sex." What is the origin of this sexual connotation? Is there a non-sexual equivalent of this phrase to express sleeping with someone without ...
214
votes
20answers
40k 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.
151
votes
19answers
48k 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 ...
103
votes
10answers
8k views

Is there a word for a person with only one head?

Reading this article by the fantastic Douglas Adams I came across this interesting quote: ‘[I]nteractivity’ is one of those neologisms that Mr Humphrys likes to dangle between a pair of verbal ...
102
votes
14answers
84k 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 ...
93
votes
16answers
254k views

How do native English speakers respond to “Thank you”?

In my school and university I was taught to say "Not at all" or "Don't mention it" in response to "Thank you!". Now I rarely hear these phrases used, but rather something like "You're welcome", "It's ...
88
votes
8answers
10k 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 ...
81
votes
14answers
44k views

“Email” or “e-mail”?

Which way of writing the word: "Email" or "e-mail" is correct? Both variants seem to be in wide use. If both ones are okay, maybe there is a difference in contexts they have been used (one is more ...
80
votes
3answers
8k views

Why is there no “autumntime” or “falltime”?

Why is "autumntime" (or "falltime") not a word? wintertime => sure springtime => fine summertime => lovely But apparently autumn/fall has no equivalent. Why?
78
votes
8answers
275k 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?
77
votes
5answers
385k 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 ...
76
votes
9answers
17k views

Plural of “Index” - “Indexes” or “indices”?

A table can have one index, or it has two or more [.....]? Is it indexes or indices? I'm just asking since I've noticed that they're both used quite often. Even Wikipedia seems to support both ...
74
votes
28answers
29k views

Idiom or word for a very crowded place

There is a popular idiom in Russian for describing a really crowded place: "(there's) no room for an apple to fall" ("яблоку негде упасть"). I struggle to think of anything similar in English, and ...
73
votes
23answers
456k views

“Lunch” vs. “dinner” vs. “supper” — times and meanings?

I've seen cases where a noon-time meal is referred to as dinner, and the evening meal is called supper. There's also lunch around noon followed by dinner in the evening. Is there a particular ...
71
votes
3answers
263k views

What is the difference between “till” and “until”?

What is the difference between till and until? When to use till or until? Please explain with examples.
70
votes
3answers
8k views

Why is it “behead” and not “dehead”?

The be- prefix in behead doesn't seem to match similar words like become, besmirch, or befuddle. Of course, the same prefix could serve different roles depending on the word. What role is be- serving ...
66
votes
14answers
14k views

Is there a polite alternative to “No thanks, I'm full”?

English is not my native language, but when I was studying in the US, I was always trying to find an alternative to I'm full! I felt that it was a very improper way to express that I have eaten ...
63
votes
11answers
6k 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 ...
62
votes
12answers
10k views

What's a less offensive substitute for “rep-whores”?

This is a frequently thrown-around term on Internet forums in general and Stack Exchange specifically. Although it conveys a lot of meaning, I'd much prefer a phrase with a less offensive origin. ...
62
votes
10answers
7k views

What's the difference between the adjectives “strategic” and “tactical”?

I recently read this sentence: It was a strategic move rather than a tactical one. I have trouble interpreting it. Can someone help?
62
votes
4answers
5k views

What is the purpose of using the word “automagically” when we already have “automatically”?

Is there a difference between the two? I see it used regularly in the tech community to mean automatically. Has the word been adopted into any recognised dictionary? For example: That was the ...
61
votes
12answers
12k 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 ...
61
votes
12answers
43k views

What is the difference between “it's up to you” and “it's down to you”?

I see both "It's up to you" and "It's down to you" in conversations. So what's the difference?
59
votes
6answers
2k views

How small does a land-mass have to be before you live “on” it, rather than “in” it?

I'm sure virtually everyone agrees that people live on the Isle of Wight, but in Ireland. Apparently the usage depends somewhat on physical size, but that can't be the whole story. How exactly do we ...
58
votes
8answers
7k views

Which term correctly identifies those who enjoy programming/technology: “geek” or “nerd”?

Which term correctly identifies those who enjoy and are involved with programming and technology, geek or nerd?
58
votes
4answers
17k views

How did Americans greet each other before “Hi”?

I had assumed that "hi" was a somehow abbreviated form of "hello," but though both of these words appear to have originated from a noise to attract attention, hi actually predates hello. These words ...
57
votes
7answers
23k views

Which is the correct spelling: “grey” or “gray”?

What is the difference? Or is there any? Which would be more British English?
57
votes
4answers
50k views

“Effect” vs. “Affect”

I've noticed that some people use effect and affect interchangeably. What are the differences between these two and when are the proper situations to use each of them?
56
votes
4answers
78k views

“Unselect” or “Deselect”?

If I want the user to revert their operation of selecting an item, should I say: "Unselect the option" or "Deselect the option"?
54
votes
9answers
88k views

What is the difference between “complicated” and “complex”?

I can't understand: what's the difference between complicated and complex? They seem to be used interchangeably. Are they actually different at all?
53
votes
20answers
55k views

Is there a word to describe someone who tends to disagree with others only to upset them?

What's the word to describe someone who acts arrogantly and always disagrees with others unreasonably in order to upset people around him/her? [I'm not looking for adjectives like unpleasant, ...
53
votes
12answers
7k views

What do you call a disk drive that is not solid state?

I tried searching for things like opposite of solid-state, but most of what I've found suggest things like liquid-state. I'm pretty sure a drive that is not solid-state contains no liquid to speak of. ...
52
votes
8answers
106k views

What is the difference between “nevermind” and “never mind”?

I never remember the appropriate use of either of nevermind and never mind. What's the difference and how can I remember?
51
votes
10answers
40k views

You quench your thirst. What do you do with your hunger?

What is the equivalent of "quench" when speaking of hunger? Is it appropriate to say you quenched your hunger?
50
votes
16answers
11k views

Is there a word for a change so small that it doesn’t seem to be a change at all?

Today, I was reading an article on pharmaceutical companies making minute changes to a drug in order to extend the patent. In one instance, the company profiled did not actually change the content of ...
50
votes
14answers
23k views

What do you call a person who started something that is later followed by everyone?

What do you call a person who started something that is later followed by everyone? For example, someone started to stay late at night till 8 p.m. and later everyone started to stay till 8 p.m..
50
votes
8answers
18k views

Polite alternative to the term “bitch” when referring to a female dog

I'm writing an example of constructing logic, and I need to differentiate between an adult female dog, an adult male dog and a puppy and am searching for polite terms. Unfortunately, the word "bitch" ...
48
votes
12answers
16k 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 ...
46
votes
10answers
19k views

What is the opposite of Optimal?

Obviously something can be sub-optimal or poor, minimal, bad or terrible... But is there a word that means the exact opposite, the antonym, of optimal?
46
votes
3answers
160k 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?
45
votes
9answers
96k views

“A few” vs. “few”

I have few friends. I have a few friends. I thought "few" means just one, two or even none. "A few" typically means more than two. However it seems to me some people say "few" when they ...
45
votes
5answers
16k 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 ...
44
votes
9answers
107k views

What is the correct usage of “myriad”?

The vast majority of the time when I see the word "myriad" it is in a sentence like "He had a myriad of things." However I don't like the extraneous words so I normally use it like "He had myriad ...
44
votes
2answers
733k 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 ...
43
votes
8answers
8k views

Can I “wear an umbrella”?

Does it make sense to say the following? Yesterday I wore an umbrella and a coat.
43
votes
3answers
42k 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 ...
43
votes
7answers
5k views

Is there a difference between “disc” and “disk” for naming digital storage media?

I thought that a disc was a disc, and it is sometimes spelled disk. I now have got an indication that those two are not the same thing. In this answer on Graphic Design, I wrote floppy disc in the ...
43
votes
4answers
21k 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 ...
42
votes
4answers
11k views

What word means “the feeling of discomfort caused by watching people's ineptitude”? [duplicate]

I am watching a UK TV programme called "The Apprentice". The candidates have to sell guided tours. Some candidates are terrible at giving these tours. They fluff their lines, or they haven't ...
42
votes
6answers
264k views

Is it “Yours faithfully” or “Yours sincerely”?

When should one sign a letter with "Yours faithfully" or "Yours sincerely"?