What's the precise difference between specify and select? Can either be used in this example, or does one work better than the other?

I can instinctively feel that there is a subtle difference between the two.

You are presented with a list of 5 choices. Alternatively, you can make your own choice that is not included in the list. Now, an app is asking you to type your choice. Which command makes the most sense?

Specify your choice.

Select your choice.

  • Welcome! Please edit to show that you've looked both words up in a dictionary, what differences you find, and what questions you still have afterward. Commented Nov 23, 2021 at 0:35

2 Answers 2


These are not synonymous at all. specify is an open-ended question requesting detail. Select is asking you to choose from more than one option presented to you.

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    Commented Nov 23, 2021 at 6:13

Select your choice sounds pleonastic to me, since select simply means to choose, to pick:

to choose something, or to make a choice; to choose a small number of things, or to choose by making careful decisions. (Cambridge)

However, I was surprised to find so many instances of it on Gngram, so people certainly use it. To my mind it means 'select or tick the box which expresses your choice/ which is in conformity with your choice'.

As for specify, I would think that it is the most appropriate in this situation, as your context says that you should type your choice, not just tick a box. Specify means:

to state/explain or describe something clearly and exactly (Cambridge)

Choosing and selecting is the act that occurs first, whereas the specifying of what you actually chose comes after. So, since you are asked to state the choice that you have already made, I would go for specify your choice.

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