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AFAIK, and as I do use, "answer key" is the one I always see natives using. But there are some people around me who use "key answer" and I wonder if that is also a true way of carrying the same meaning? I've to say that I'm not a native English speaker and same about them. Any help could be appreciated...

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    What is the context??
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 26, 2020 at 15:09
  • @HotLicks, my English teacher asked us (her students) to do the pieces of homework he had given us. Then said "you have two hours to do them until I send you the "key answer" (without "S")". I decided to come ask you guys to see if there is something behind it that I'm not aware of...
    – Amir F
    Apr 26, 2020 at 15:31
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    It sounds like she meant "answer key", but it would depend on the nature of the homework.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 26, 2020 at 16:32
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    'answer key' is at least a strong collocation, probably a compound noun defined in reliable dictionaries. 'Key answer' is at most a weakish collocation. Dec 17, 2020 at 17:49

1 Answer 1

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An answer key is a key to the answers (to a test or exercise). It's usually a copy of the test or exercise with the instructor's idea of the best possible answers written in.

A key answer is an answer that is key. That is, it's the most important of several possible answers to a question. Alternatively, it could be the answer to a question, as given in the answer key.

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  • So, in my case, if my teacher requires me to do some kind of homework assignment, and then wants to check them, there should be an answer key, not a key answer...
    – Amir F
    Apr 26, 2020 at 14:56
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    @AmirF, yes, at least as the term was used in California when I was in school (30 years ago).
    – The Photon
    Apr 26, 2020 at 14:57

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