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What topics can I ask about here?

The English Language and Usage Stack Exchange is for linguists, etymologists, and (serious) English language enthusiasts.

If you are learning English, please consider whether your question might be better suited for English Language Learners.

Questions on the following topics are welcomed here:

  • Word choice and usage
  • Grammar
  • Etymology (history of words’ development)
  • Dialect differences
  • Pronunciation (phonetics and phonology, dialectology)
  • Spelling and punctuation

But please, don’t ask any questions about the following topics. They are out of scope for this site.

  • The meaning of words, or synonyms for words, unless you have first looked them up in a dictionary or thesaurus. See below for suggestions about simple and basic questions.
  • Proofreading ("Is this right?", "Are there any mistakes?"), unless a specific source of concern is clearly specified. See below for hints on checking existing texts.
  • Writing advice (see Writers.SE instead) or critique requests
  • "How to improve my English?" (this is not constructive anyway)
  • Translation and non-English languages — please see the translation tag info for details
  • Naming, including naming programming variables/classes
  • Criticism, discussion, and analysis of English literature
  • Jokes that do not rely on the English language

Where can I find answers to simple and basic questions?

If your question is simple and can probably be easily answered by looking it up, then you may find common online internet resources to be of some help. View our list of community recommended resources to find some that may be of help to you.

  • Try a dictionary if you want to know what a word or phrase means, how it evolved, or how it is pronounced.
  • Try a thesaurus if you want to know words or phrases that have a similar meaning to one you already know.

Of course, if your question isn't adequately answered by these resources, feel free to ask here on English Language and Usage Stack Exchange. Be sure to mention the research you've done and what you're still hoping to learn!

For more help, see "What types of questions should I avoid asking?" Please look around to see if your question has been asked before. It’s also OK to ask and answer your own question.

If your question is not specifically on-topic for English Language and Usage Stack Exchange, it may be on topic for another Stack Exchange site. If no site currently exists that will accept your question, you may commit to or propose a new site at Area 51, the place where new Stack Exchange communities are democratically created.

How can I ask about checking my text?

Checking a text is proof-reading. This site does not offer a proof-reading service where the community will read a text and suggest corrections. If you would like that, there are online services available, a few of which are free.

However, this site can answer specific questions about a particular point in your text. You need to quote the passage, highlight the word you're uncertain about, and then explain why you're not sure about it.

That is, not

Is the verb right in "He has run the company for five years now"?

but something like

He has run the company for five years now.

Is the verb has run correct here? If "he" is still in post, the action is still in progress, so should the verb be a continuous/progressive verb like He has been running? Does the inclusion of "now" make a difference here?

  • The question "Is the verb has run correct here?" highlights what the question is asking about.
  • "The action is still in progress, so should it be a continuous-aspect verb?" explains the quandary.
  • "Does now make a difference?" provides additional information about the question which answers might touch upon.

Note that you should also include your own research into the query. The example indicates that a little research may have been done with "Should it be a continuous-aspect verb?", but research is needed.

Don't forget to tag the question with tags which are relevant to the particular points you're asking about: [verbs][progressive-aspect] would be a reasonable choice in this example.

What notation and symbols are commonly used here?

An evolving list of common abbreviations used on this site can be found here.

Symbols from the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) are used to describe pronunciations of words. Transcriptions in IPA are normally contained within slashes (e.g. /kæt/) or square brackets (e.g. [maʊs]).

In addition, some linguistic symbols are used to make it clear whether examples are to be taken as proper English or not. These include:

  • *: Used in front of an example word or phrase to indicate that the example is ungrammatical (e.g. *Me enjoy eating cookies.)
  • ?: Used similarly to *, but indicates a word or phrase that is potentially marginal or awkward, rather than fully ungrammatical (e.g. ?unbelievableness)