Questions tagged [formality]

This tag is for questions about formal (versus informal) words and usage. The question must identify a particular concern about the formality of the word or phrase at issue, and specify the target context or audience.

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425
votes
6answers
142k views

Did English ever have a formal version of "you"?

From the top of my head, Danish "De" (practically never used), German "Sie", Chinese "您", French "vous", Spanish "usted" are a formal way of addressing someone, especially if one isn't familiar with ...
90
votes
12answers
16k views

Is "data" treated as singular or plural in formal contexts?

My non-native English speaking friend just asked me: "Data is..." or "Data are..."? I said both but that's because I've been desensitized from reading/writing both (especially from writing code and ...
36
votes
9answers
204k views

"have" vs."have got" in American and British English

I have looked through several questions and answers on EL&U, and often there is an indication that American English prefers "have" while British English prefers "have got". In addition, there are ...
68
votes
10answers
117k views

Alternatives to "and/or"?

As a programmer, I have no problem with seeing or using "and/or" in technical documentation. For example, I can upvote an answer that satisfies me and/or mark it as accepted. That's perfectly good ...
95
votes
20answers
577k views

Which expressions can be used to close an email? [closed]

At the end of written communication like emails and letters, it is customary to use a closing valediction or "complementary close". Which formal and informal expressions can be used to end emails?
27
votes
5answers
97k views

What are sentences like "the longer X, the more Y" called and can they be used in formal written English?

What is the type of sentence exemplified below called? Is it appropriate to use it in a scientific paper and formal written English in general? 1. The more pronounced the variation, the more the ...
36
votes
5answers
10k views

The times they are a-changin'

I have always been intrigued by the word usage in the title of this Bob Dylan song. Wikipedia mentions that the song was influenced by Irish and Scottish ballads: Dylan recalled writing the song as ...
7
votes
4answers
4k views

Why do some questions not start with an auxiliary verb?

When I learned English, my teachers told me that all questions must have an auxiliary verb at the beginning, just like Are you mad? or Is she playing? do. But when watching some movies or talking ...
9
votes
3answers
12k views

Should contractions be avoided in formal emails?

In a formal email of the kind where you begin with "Dear Mr. Surname" and finish with "Best regards", for example, should we use the following contractions? Or are the non contracted forms more ...
10
votes
4answers
32k views

What does "ain't" mean? [closed]

What does the contraction ain't mean? Is it appropriate to use it in formal settings?
60
votes
6answers
239k views

Which is correct: "prefer X to Y" or "prefer X over Y"?

Many say that "prefer X to Y" has a more formal ring to it than "prefer X over Y". Are there any dialects where you wouldn't use "prefer X to Y" in colloquial speech at all? Conversely, are there any ...
6
votes
5answers
118k views

"Will graduate" vs. "will be graduated" vs. "is going to graduate"

Which of the following sentences are correct? He will graduate in May. He will be graduated in May. He is going to graduate in May. Issue 1: Is the second one grammatical? Issue 2: There ...
0
votes
1answer
2k views

Subjunctive mood: 'was' usage after 'I wish' and 'if only'

SFX Magazine had declared the sentence below as follow: 1) STAR TURN, 2) BEST LINES. I wish Bernard Cribbins was my grandad. Perhaps he would be willing to adopt? Rattigan: “If only that was ...
2
votes
2answers
1k views

Word or phrase for mere coincidence that brings happiness

I wish to state that my exposure to a certain area was a mere coincidence, and I am happy about the area. Moreover, I want to convey the idea that the incident was like a fairytale, something no one ...
30
votes
4answers
78k views

What's the difference between "informal", "colloquial", "slang", and "vulgar"?

It seems many people get confused about the differences (and similarities) between "colloquial" and "slang", so what exactly does each term apply to? But to be even more thorough it seems to me we ...
35
votes
4answers
169k views

"you" versus "You" as polite form of writing

Is it correct to write "You" with a capital Y as a form of politeness? If yes, should I use that form throughout the entire letter/document, or only at specific places?
5
votes
5answers
50k views

Which is correct: “I’m done” or “I have finished”?

Which of these alternatives is grammatically correct? I’m done. or I have finished Like I’m done sounds very American, but is it grammatically correct?
19
votes
8answers
226k views

How often do people say "gotta", "wanna" or "gonna" in English speaking countries?

I learned these three words from Collins Cobuild Advanced Learner's English Dictionary. got|ta /g'ɒtə/ Gotta is used in written English to represent the words 'got to' when they are pronounced > ...
15
votes
1answer
68k views

“so long as” vs. “as long as”

I just googled the difference between as long as and so long as. The difference has alredy been discussed here. There are, it seems, two contexts for these expressions: lengths and physical ...
12
votes
3answers
21k views

Were contractions less common in olden days?

We just viewed the new movie True Grit. The language of the characters was more formal sounding than we are used to, largely because of the absence of contractions. Is this historically accurate? Do ...
9
votes
3answers
5k views

Is "get" (in the sense of "become/make") appropriate for formal writing?

Is the use of "get + adjective/participle" appropriate for formal writing (for example, scientific papers)? I am thinking of usages analogous to get fat get inflated get sick where the meaning is ...
5
votes
5answers
35k views

Why is "ain't" not listed in dictionaries?

Google finds 52,000,000 matches for ain't but non-natives simply can't look up this word. Wiktionary isn't helpful. Is it some kind of 'wildcard' for "am/is/are not"?
11
votes
8answers
15k views

Can the word "that" be used to refer to people?

I came across this SAT Question of the Day: Unbelievable as it may seem, many individuals that fought in the American Revolution were still alive in 1839, the year the world was introduced to ...
59
votes
17answers
25k views

"Can I" vs "May I" in restaurant setting when ordering

A while back, while we were getting fast food, my friend commented on my usage of "can" versus "may" when asking to take my order. I said: Can I have a ....... and my friend argued you're ...
14
votes
7answers
14k views

How do you decide which phrase to use when asking people to repeat what they said?

There are many different ways to ask people to repeat what they have just said. For example: Huh? What? Sorry? Pardon? What's that? Say that again, please I beg your pardon? I've ordered them ...
24
votes
7answers
15k views

Indian-English usage of "Kindly"

I have noticed that the word "Kindly" is used a lot by some Indians speaking English as a second language. Does anyone know the origin of this?
15
votes
6answers
3k views

"Toward" or "towards" – what would a native speaker use?

In this question we learn that toward and towards are interchangeable, but that the former is somewhat more typical of U.S. English and the latter of British English, although there is some indication ...
7
votes
3answers
36k views

"Thus" vs. "so" in formal English

Currently there are about 4,000 international students from 110 different nations across the world, thus/so the university offers perfect conditions for socializing and making new friends. Is this ...
8
votes
4answers
8k views

"So long as" vs. "as long as"

Which phrase is more formal — "so long as" or "as long as"? Example: So long as Google Voice allows free long distance in North America, I will use it. As long as Google Voice allows free ...
1
vote
3answers
39k views

Formal writing: "…for my colleagues and {I/me/myself}."?

I'm currently using Cambridge English Advanced 1. It's a book that contains past examination papers, and includes numerous samples of authentic writing. This material helps, candidates and teachers, ...
13
votes
7answers
73k views

Is using "and/or" recommended for formal writing, or is it frowned upon?

Is using "and/or" allowed in formal writing? If not, is there general way to represent the OR binary operator with as little space as possible in written English?
3
votes
3answers
1k views

What are the guidelines for usage of "will" and "is/are going to"?

I use them interchangeably, however I'd like to know when one is better or more appropriate than the other.
3
votes
2answers
13k views

Formal alternative for "suck" [closed]

What is a more decent/formal alternative for the word suck? I want to use it in the context of being bad at something. To be precise, I want to translate "To suck less at a job every day" to formal ...
2
votes
2answers
5k views

Is 'acronymise/ze' a word? Is it used only colloquially, if at all?

I just sent a text to a friend, who didn't understand an acronym I used for a game: "Ah, I said it in a previous text so thought it was ok to abbreviate it." Though, since it was an acronym I ...
1
vote
2answers
7k views

Phrasal verbs (formal and informal use) [closed]

I'm not always comfortable with phrasal verbs. I find that Americans use a lot of phrasal verbs than say people from UK -- I might be completely wrong though. What I find most difficult with phrasal ...
28
votes
2answers
132k views

Can I use "therefore", "so", "hence" and "thus" interchangeably?

I was taught that, at least, 'therefore' and 'so' and can be used interchangeably, one being informal, the other formal. But, even when written, replacing 'so' with 'therefore' doesn't seem correct. ...
38
votes
14answers
8k views

What can be used as formal euphemism of "hack"?

I'm writing a technical document, and I need to convey the fact that we had to find a non-optimal, non-orthodox solution that was adopted as the best available alternative (a hack) to solve an ...
23
votes
8answers
105k views

Usage of double dots (..) Is it formal?

I am sure that this wouldn't have much meaning, but still want to get acknowledged whether usage of double dots is formal. I have observed people using double dots in business Emails. Usually while ...
11
votes
2answers
68k views

What is the correct greeting to use in a formal email addressed to a department/team/company?

If the email were to be addressed to a specific person, you could write "Dear [Name]". But is it appropriate to write "Dear [Team / Department / Company]"? For example, "Dear Service Desk," and "...
25
votes
5answers
7k views

Is writing the pronoun "i" in lowercase a feature of Indian English?

The Rule The personal pronoun “I” is always capitalized in English, regardless of its position in a sentence. This is an orthographic convention that every native speaker should know. Whenever I ...
8
votes
5answers
90k views

Is it suitable to use 'etc.' in an academic paper?

I'm writing one of my first academic papers and I'm not sure whether etc. is too informal. Should I use et cetera instead?
10
votes
7answers
10k views

learn how to [verb] vs. learn to [verb]

"learn to [verb]" "learn how to [verb]" Is [1] merely a less formal version of [2]? If not, does [1] communicate something subtly different? Consider the following: In [2], the object of learning is ...
7
votes
4answers
98k views

What's an alternative for "hidden gem"?

Hidden gems is an idiom which means something which is extremely outstanding and not many people may know about; for example, Blame It on Rio by Stanley Donen is a good movie, but relatively unknown ...
4
votes
5answers
14k views

Formal expression for "talking about something unrelated" [closed]

What are some words or phrases that can be used when a person is discussing a particular subject with a group of people and unintentionally she/he talks about something unrelated? I need a formal ...
21
votes
6answers
432k views

What is the male equivalent of "mistress" in formal English?

The mistress definition, Oxford dictionary a woman having an extramarital sexual relationship, esp. with a married man I am looking for the male equivalent of 'mistress' as defined above. Some ...
9
votes
3answers
2k views

"just because… doesn't mean…"

It appears to me that the construction "just because… doesn't mean…" isn't used in literature at all. Is its use limited to colloquial speech and informal writing? Note that while some people seem to ...
6
votes
2answers
884 views

The Royal We: Who are "we"?

Although King George III of Great Britain did respond to a Loyal Address using the personal pronoun I: My Lords, I thank you for this dutiful and affectionate Address. The satisfaction which you ...
5
votes
4answers
3k views

Can "let us" always be used in place of "let's"?

Me: Perhaps we need to make a left turn at Albuquerque Him: Let us try that Now I would have said, "Let's try that". "Let us" sounds wrong to me in this instance. Is it? Are there contractions ...
5
votes
5answers
8k views

Why aren't there any common words for 'defecating' and 'urinating'?

Besides 'poo(p)ing' and 'peeing/weeing' used by and to children, besides 'shitting/crapping' and 'pissing' which are spoken, not polite, says the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, besides '...
2
votes
1answer
3k views

Usage of "ain't" in formal conversation

Is it okay to use ain't in formal conversation? I know ain't can be used for am not, is not, are not, have not, has not. So if I can use it in day-to-day life, it will be easier for me I guess.