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I wonder if "location" and "place" can be interchangeably used?

Where is the best place to place a piano in a house?

Where is the best location to place a piano in a house?

"location" seems to me that it implies bigger places such as a building, house, island.

Am I wrong?

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Your question focuses on the nouns location and place. It seems awkward to query for location within a small area such as a house. Location stems from the verb to locate, "to establish oneself or one's business," which implies a larger areal context. Someone later seeking the location of the piano approaches the question from a context more like "where in town is the piano?" whereas someone who knows a priori the piano can be found in the house would ask simply "where is the piano?" I will concede though that asking "in what place is the piano" goes further afield, inquiring about the name of the town. So, I don't find the two terms to be completely interchangeable, but only on the basis of current conventions. Perhaps the best way to state this would be "Where is the best place to put a piano in a house" (but now the discussion shifts to put vs. to place).

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  • Nice explanation, it would benefit from a linked referrence to an authoritative source in support of the claims. – Bitter dreggs. May 12 at 5:23
  • I would say that the difference has been established "from first principles" and is good as it is. – Greybeard May 12 at 9:17
  • Merriam-Webster's second transitive sense of locate is "to set or establish in a particular spot : STATION // located the clock in the exact center of the mantel." This contradicts your assertion that locate is not used for small areas. This answer suffers from the same problem as the other answer: a lack of supporting evidence for its claim. – Jason Bassford May 12 at 14:08
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The word location is derived from the verb locate and implies some degree of searching.

"Where is it located?" is pretty much the equivalent of "Where's it found?" or "Where would I find it?"

As in -

In California, some of the best architecture is found in out-of-the-way places.

A place, as you've correctly noted, is more concrete, i.e. something that has geographic coordinates.

Let me try to confuse you even further:

Places are usually found, whereas locations are determined or established.

What would be the best place for a piano in a house?

  • sounds good, whilst -

What would be the best location for a piano in a house?

  • is a bit awkward.

Your initial assumption works.

Placing a piano somewhere means transporting it there.

Locating a piano means seeing, after a bit of searching, where it's already been put.

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  • It should also be noted that place has various idiomatic, metaphorical and semi-metaphorical uses (e.g. 'to put someone in his place'), which location doesn't. – jsw29 May 12 at 3:32
  • I think of placing a piano somewhere as meaning more of “depositing or positioning it there” and less about transporting it. – Jim May 12 at 3:45
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    None of this separation of the two words is supported by their dictionary definitions. In fact, the very first sentence is incorrect. The intransitive sense of Merriam-Webster's definition of the verb locate is ": to establish oneself or one's business : SETTLE // The company will locate north of the city." Meanwhile, the second transitive sense is "to set or establish in a particular spot : STATION // located the clock in the exact center of the mantel." This is not "searching," and it's exactly what you'd do with a piano … – Jason Bassford May 12 at 3:58

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