When flying, I often read phrases like the following:

Special Meals only available on select flights […]

Then again, wouldn't it also make sense to say

Special Meals only available on selected flights […]

What's the difference between these two? When should I use one over the other?

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    In the given context, 'select' is correct. There is a difference, but the incorrect use of 'selected' is widespread, so much so that many believe both are correct, some even think 'selected' is correct.
    – Kris
    Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 11:18
  • 1
    @Kris: Per my answer, in this context it's virtually certain selected is correct - by 119 instances to 5 for the exact form, and 39 to 2 for "only on selected flights" as compared to "only on select flights". Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 21:43
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    It needs to be noted that both words belong to advertising-speak, and usually convey no more real information than some. By using them, the advertisers are trying to create the illusion that there was some process of carefully choosing the items in question, and that they were chosen because the satisfy some definite, relevant criteria, while in reality nothing like that is the case. In the OP's example, the airline probably just can't be bothered to provide special meals on all its flights, and then obscures that by speaking as if there were some specially thoughtful reason behind that.
    – jsw29
    Commented Oct 21, 2023 at 21:26

6 Answers 6


According to Washington State University Emeritus Professor of English Paul Brians' book Common Errors in English Usage, select is to convey high quality and selected is to convey a specific subset.

“Select” means “special, chosen because of its outstanding qualities.” If you are writing an ad for a furniture store offering low prices on some of its recliners, call them “selected recliners,” not “select recliners,” unless they are truly outstanding and not just leftovers you’re trying to move out of the store.


Select is an adjective.

Definition: the best of something, usually in a small amount

The adjective "select" is more applicable on a singular object or a set. Personally, I think it has become sort of an advertising lingo.


1.) It's a very select club - I've been trying unsuccessfully to join it for years.

2.) These activities should be available to all pupils, not just a select few.

3.) Hamilton lives in a very select part of London.

I hope this helps.

reference: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/select_2#

  • Welcome to EL&U, Kelvin. We appreciate your input. :) Commented Jan 6, 2014 at 1:17

US car manufacturers in particular seem to be prone to say some feature is only available on select models, but I wonder if this is influenced by the fact that automatic cars have a gear selector.

As a rule, the preferred form is available on selected flights (113 hits in Google Books), rather than available on select flights (5 hits).

Advertisers sometime use "select" loosely to mean "high-quality" (i.e. - they have selected certain products as being "better" than others), but usually the selection process involved is more neutral. A cynic might well think that optional extras on select models are often included as an inducement to buy something that's not actually such good value - which is why it's not selling well, and needs extra promotional offers.

  • For 'high-quality', please see my comment above. Use of 'select' as a synonym for 'high-quality' is a commercial exploitation of the public perception.
    – Kris
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 4:04
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    Don't manual transmissions also have a gear selector?
    – nnnnnn
    Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 9:00

In constructions such as this,

select followed by noun-phrase implies that there is a predefined subset -- select flights is a list of flight numbers/ other flight designations specifically listed for this purpose.

selected followed by a noun-phrase merely suggests a subset that may be chosen (at an unspecified time, by unspecified selectors); even at a future date by a future selector.

Discount is offered on 'select items'. -- Specific items set aside for discount sale. One list applies to all customers throughout the sale.

Present the 'selected items' at the packing counter. -- Customers select items of their choice. Items differ from customer to customer and from time to time.

  • 1
    Nah. Advertisers sometime use "select" loosely to mean "high-quality", but I don't accept the distinction you make between pre-selected in advance by a clearly-identified selection process, and arbitrarily selected in unpredictable ways at unpredictable times. Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 16:45
  • @FumbleFingers: "Select" can be used to mean "high-quality", but I think in some cases it is clearly not intended to convey any aspect of quality but rather of subsetting as Kris wrote. The example in the OP's question is clearly the latter case; the "select flights" aren't of any differing quality; they are just the flights that have Special Meals available. Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 20:27
  • @Mr. Shiny and New 安宇: I only mentioned the "quality" meaning because that is peculiar to select, not selected. My point is simply that I don't accept Kris's distinction between two different types of subset not based on quality, but on some other pair of different selection criteria, time of selection, or whatever. Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 21:36
  • @FumbleFingers: Your aspect of 'quality' emanates from the practice where individual items are selected by a pass/no-pass test for quality. 'Made from select grapes.' does imply good quality grapes, only indirectly in the sense grapes of proper quality were selected for use. Use of 'select' as a synonym for 'high-quality' is a commercial exploitation of the public perception.
    – Kris
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 4:02
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    @Kris: We're just going round in circles. Perhaps there's a regional dialect involved here. Google books has 1790 instances of "made from selected grapes", which I understand to mean "specifically chosen varieties", with an overtone of "high quality". There are only 8 instances of "made from select grapes" Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 14:31

I don't know the grammatical difference here, but do find that "selected" is often used for a subset that itself would be processed while "select" is often used when the subset would only form the basis/means for some processing.

Personally, I would use "select" when the selection process is underway (or yet to start), the criteria are vague or I want to be evasive. There is some finality, authority and honesty about "selected".


Use "select" as adjective to connote a desirable group of objects. Use "selected" as adjective to connote a neutral (even if purposeful) subsetting of objects from a larger universe.

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