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

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123
votes
16answers
12k 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.
109
votes
18answers
14k 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 ...
89
votes
10answers
7k 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 ...
76
votes
8answers
5k 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 ...
61
votes
16answers
84k 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 ...
60
votes
14answers
14k 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 ...
57
votes
10answers
13k 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 ...
55
votes
13answers
8k 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 ...
53
votes
10answers
4k 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?
53
votes
4answers
2k 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 ...
53
votes
4answers
8k 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 ...
53
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 ...
51
votes
8answers
5k 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?
51
votes
11answers
11k 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?
47
votes
6answers
5k views

“Indexes” or “indices”?

A table can have one index, or it has two or more ind...? 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 ...
46
votes
8answers
6k 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" ...
45
votes
12answers
4k 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. ...
45
votes
12answers
6k 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 ...
44
votes
15answers
5k 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 ...
44
votes
10answers
13k 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?
44
votes
6answers
14k views

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

What is the difference? Or is there any? Which would be more British English?
44
votes
7answers
2k 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 ...
43
votes
7answers
54k 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?
42
votes
3answers
2k 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?
39
votes
5answers
2k views

Flora, fauna, robot

Are there any terms for referring to robot-kind, as flora refers to plants and fauna to animals? I'm looking for a word that would fit in with flora and fauna, so if it derives from Latin or Roman ...
39
votes
7answers
3k 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 DesignBeta, I wrote floppy disc in ...
38
votes
22answers
119k 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 ...
37
votes
8answers
5k views

Can I “wear an umbrella”?

Does it make sense to say the following? Yesterday I wore an umbrella and a coat.
37
votes
4answers
76k 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.
36
votes
4answers
11k views

What is the difference between “illicit” and “illegal”?

What is the difference between "illicit" and "illegal"? Are they just synonymous? Used in different contexts?
36
votes
9answers
8k 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?
35
votes
2answers
219k views

Is it “bear” or “bare” with me?

Is it "bear" or "bare" with me?
35
votes
9answers
27k 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?
34
votes
7answers
34k 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?
34
votes
14answers
7k 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 ...
33
votes
4answers
36k views

Which is correct, “buck naked” or “butt naked”?

"Butt naked" or "buck naked" both refer to completely naked, or do they? Where the phrase comes from I have no idea but that would be of interest. This is a phrase I am too afraid to google and ...
33
votes
3answers
4k 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 ...
32
votes
5answers
3k views

Is “the girls are want to gossip” correct?

Is this the correct use and placement of want? The girls in the office are want to gossip. Does anyone have a reference citing this use?
32
votes
3answers
48k 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?
31
votes
9answers
13k views

“Trainer” is to “trainee” as “mentor” is to what?

What do you call someone who is being mentored? Is it mentoree or mentee? Does the term student or pupil imply a context outside the business environment?
31
votes
5answers
124k 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 ...
31
votes
9answers
29k 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 ...
29
votes
15answers
17k views

Collective word for food and drink

Is there a word that best describes food and drink taken at the same time? I've thought of refreshments and consumables but neither seem right to me.
29
votes
6answers
3k views

A word that says a person is both female and your friend

It's often confusing for me to talk about my friends, especially my female friends. This is because in Dutch there are words for both male ("vriend") and female ("vriendin") friends. In English ...
29
votes
8answers
17k views

“Toilet”, “lavatory” or “loo” for polite society

My friend is trying so hard to fit into polite society, and is raising her child to say loo rather than toilet. I know it should be lavatory (and I would not say lav) but we are in the 21st century ...
29
votes
6answers
1k views

Is there a word for two persons dodging each other on the street?

While walking on a path, sometimes two person try to dodge each other. Like one guy steps left, and at the same time, other guy steps left and then switches direction and so does the other guy. Is ...
28
votes
26answers
8k views

A non-offensive term to call a lunatic?

How can a mad scientist's friend address him? For example, when engaged in a conversation with other people (who don't know the scientist), he mentions having such a friend? I suppose a loony sounds ...
28
votes
6answers
47k views

What is the correct way to use “neither” and “nor” in a sentence together?

Given these facts: The tool cannot be found in the kitchen. The tool cannot be found in the bathroom. Which is the correct sentence to represent the situation above? I can find the tool ...
28
votes
3answers
8k 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 ...
27
votes
6answers
37k views

When do I use “can” or “could”?

When should I use can? When should I use could? What is right under what context?