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“right” vs “correct”

I've had this question for a long time. Which sentence is grammatically correct?

Is this the right way?

Is this the correct way?

marked as duplicate by MetaEd, Kristina Lopez, Kit Z. Fox Jan 18 '13 at 15:14

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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    Either is right. Both are correct. – Robusto Jan 18 '13 at 11:35
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    @SteveMelnikof: Similar, but not identical, I'd say: these words have different connotations in different contexts, and these are different phrases/expressions. For example, your answer as quoted below is less applicable here than to the other question. Voted to reopen. – Cerberus Jan 18 '13 at 15:21
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    @Cerberus I was going to agree with every single word of what you said, but then I scrolled down to see that the OP has actually accepted an answer that is nothing but a verbatim quote of Steve's answer from that other question. Apart from that being just wrong (that reputation should really go to Steve), the OP has straight out admitted that had he seen that other question earlier, this question here simply wouldn't exist. – RegDwigнt Jan 18 '13 at 16:10
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    @RegDwigh: Yes, that is odd. Even some OPs don't know when one case is different from another... – Cerberus Jan 18 '13 at 16:14

Steve Melnikoff in this post said:

I'd say that there is a subtle distinction between the two, in that "correct" implies that the given answer (or answers) is definitive and absolute, as might be the case, for example, with a simple maths problem.

In contrast, "right" would be better for an answer which, although considered appropriate, is still a matter of opinion. This might apply, for example, to a question of ethics ("is this the right thing to do?" or "is he the right guy for this job?"); again, using "correct" here would imply that there is an absolute answer that no-one could possibly disagree with.

"Right" can still be used in places where "correct" would be appropriate (such as a maths problem), but not the necessarily the other way around.

I think this pretty much answers your question.

  • Some context is lacking. Steve's answer applies to the phrase "am I right? / am I correct?", but it is less appropriate in this case. For example, in the contrastive phrases given, it seems less likely that "is this the right way?" is about ethics. – Cerberus Jan 18 '13 at 15:17

They would be used in different circumstances. For example, if you were lost, you'd be more likely to ask 'Is this the right way?' rather than 'Is this the correct way?' But the answer to your question is that both are grammatical.

  • Though if you are lost, there's an advantage in favouring "correct" and making it less likely that your advisor would mirror your language and stick in a right meaning correct that you could mistake as a right meaning the opposite of left. – Jon Hanna Jan 18 '13 at 11:41

They're both grammatically correct. Indeed, they're both grammatically identical: "Is this the [adjective] way?"

They're also both commonly used.

They are close in meaning, and there are circumstances where you could use either.

"Correct" has a nuance of precision that would make it more appropriate when you are looking for an exact answer, (rather than if there are several right ways, and you just want to know you have one of them). Even here though, you could still use either.

  • What is meant by "both identical"? – Kris Jan 18 '13 at 12:57
  • @Kris a colloquial pleonasm. Strictly it should be "Indeed, they're grammatically identical:". – Jon Hanna Jan 18 '13 at 13:05
  • +1 This is the best answer (despite the pleonasm, which will not doubt be set right or corrected later...). – Cerberus Jan 18 '13 at 15:13
  • @Cerberus ah, what's a colloquialism between friends? I'm inclined to leave it, Kris' questioning of it, and my explanation, as a bonus point on another question of usage :) – Jon Hanna Jan 19 '13 at 16:05
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    @JonHanna: Very well...I just had to use "right" and "correct", as a bonus point to...I don't know. – Cerberus Jan 19 '13 at 19:29

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