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When should one use usage instead of use? Examples?

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7 Answers 7

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I tend to agree with Peter Shor:

The word prevarication is not in common use.

But:

The word prevarication is not common usage.

(A sentence that presumably refers to some previous use of prevarication in a non-standard way.) Note how dropping the preposition changes the context of the phrase.

A question that can be asked is whether usage has any really useful use, other than for pedants.

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    My gut feeling was to agree with you and Peter, but this NGram shows not in common usage is more common than without "in". But neither version is anywhere near as common as not in common use. Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 22:01
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Usage is how something is used; the fact of something being used is use; the degree to which something is used is utilization.

The word prevarication is not in common usage.
The use of safety belts is mandatory.
The utilization of safety belts has reached 70%.

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    I'd agree with the first two definitions there, but I've never heard that the third is true. Can you cite anything for that?
    – Daniel
    Commented Jul 18, 2011 at 11:59
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    I'd disagree with your first example; I'd say "The word prevarication is not in common use." but "The usage of the word prevarication has changed." Commented Jul 18, 2011 at 21:03
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    I've always understood utilization to mean "used in a manner other than intended". i.e., One might use a hammer to drive or remove a nail, or utilize a hammer as a door stop or paperweight. Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 22:50
  • Would you say "The use of" "The usage of" or "using" ... this method has been shown to be a good alternative.
    – skan
    Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 20:21
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    @skan — “use”, definitely. You are not explaining anything about the manner in which the method is used. I tend to favor “use” any way, as the shorter, more common word. Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 16:54
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I thought to excerpt this article because it mentions the etymology, and concludes by using use and usage in the same sentence.

https://coachdes.wordpress.com/2005/10/24/english-use-and-usage/:

What is the difference between ‘use’ and usage’? Both come from the same Latin word usus (noun), which in turn is from the verb uti - to use. So how do they differ?

The difference is subtle but useful.

The noun ‘use’ comes from the verb ‘use’, meaning to employ for a given purpose or put into action, and larger dictionaries will list many variations and adaptations of that basic meaning. Examples are:
‘I use a keyboard to type in these words’ ‘I use a knife and fork to eat my dinner’, ‘I use short words in speaking with small children, because they probably won’t understand long words’. So the noun ‘use’ (with the ‘s’ as in ‘goose’, not, as for the verb, as in ‘cruise’) means a given purpose or application. Examples would be: ‘The English language is in common use around the world’ , ‘I put my keyboard to good use’.

For the noun ‘usage’ the basic dictionary definition can look pretty much the same as that for ‘use’, but with ‘usage’ there is a sense of ‘continued’ or ‘common’ use. And with language, the distinction is that ‘usage’ is the way the language is actually used, as distinct from what might look correct if you try to construct a sentence or phrase from a dictionary and grammar book. Examples would be: ‘Although old-fashioned grammarians say you should never split an infinitive, that is done every day in common usage.’ and ‘I was taught at school that every sentence must have a verb, but actual usage shows that many excellent writers include in their work ‘sentences’ without verbs, such as ‘His arrival at any gathering was always a dramatic event. Bold. Arresting.’

How useful is this distinction? Well, in everyday life it probably doesn’t have a lot of application, but for me it is an interesting distinction, partly because of the origin of the words. As indicated above, both use and usage come to us from the Latin usus, but usage has arrived via Old French, from the 14th century AD.

But there is a very practical consideration here.

Anyone who wants to be a highly confident, fluent speaker of English would do well to develop an insatiable curiosity to know the appropriate usage, which is a way of employing language at a higher level than technically correct use.

For those who want to have a ready reference on this subject, I recommend The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage.

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  • Would you say "for medical use" or "for medical usage" ?
    – skan
    Commented Apr 12, 2019 at 20:04
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    @skan "use" is the only one of the two that means "purpose of using", so I think you would say "for medical use". Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 4:05
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Usage is also more commonly used than use to specify a quantity; for example, electricity usage.

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  • Usage: rules of language

  • Use: meaningful communicative behavior

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Usage: rules of language Use: meaningful communicative behaviour

The term usage refers to conventions, most often to those of language. Thus, 'English usage' or 'French usage' refers to the conventions of those languages, respectively. When we refer to 'word usage', we mean the conventions for using words; when we refer to 'use of words', we mean only the employment of words: 'This text describes the principles of word usage'. 'He is noted for his frequent use of wrong words'.

People frequently use usage when they should use use. The noun usage should not be substituted for use when the meaning is 'the employment of' – even if you think it sounds more 'sophisticated'. It is not correct to say that "the wise usage of computers saved the company money" or 'usage of insulation can save fuel'. In both instances, use is the appropriate word.

http://www.grammarmudge.cityslide.com/articles/article/992333/8566.htm

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Usage of is used more for plural/non-plural quantity:

It tracks mobile usage of the Netflix app in 30 international regions including India, Brazil, the UK, and Malaysia, where it has a sample size that makes up a statistically significant portion of the local device population. It also tracks usage of the Netflix app in the US, but Android devices are the minority there and the data capture a snapshot of overall usage. -Business Insider

https://lengusa.com/search/usage%20of

use of is more like for 'using'

Theresa May said there was “no practicable alternative to the use of force” to stop the use of alleged use of chemical weapons by Bashar al-Assad, as the UK joined the US and France in launching strikes against targets in Syria associated with the use of such substances. -Independent

https://lengusa.com/search/use%20of

When you search them alone, usage is more like 'being used'

Lidl UK said its animal-welfare policy banned routine usage of antibiotics and its suppliers were required to monitor usage through adherence to the Red Tractor scheme’s antibiotic use standards. A spokesman said: “We are committed to meeting sector targets and fully support the disclosure of antibiotic usage. - Independent

https://lengusa.com/search/usage

and use has so many meanings.

https://lengusa.com/search/use

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