Questions tagged [usage]

For questions on how and why certain words are used in varying ways within various contexts.

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133
votes
13answers
371k views

When should "no problem" replace "you're welcome" as a response to "thank you"?

I have observed a growing trend in which people substitute "no problem" for "you're welcome" as a response to "thank you". In particular, it seems to be an increasingly common response from servers ...
132
votes
3answers
493k views

What is the difference between "till" and "until"?

What is the difference between till and until? When to use till or until? Please explain with examples.
69
votes
9answers
27k views

Why is the word "Holy" used before swear words?

People usually use the word "Holy" before "Shit", "Crap" or any other bad words to express their feelings, like surprise, anger, etc. Is there any reason why the word "Holy" is used with these bad ...
61
votes
8answers
32k views

"My personal opinion is..." Is it always pointless to use the words "personal" and "personally"?

Is this kind of redundancy acceptable in both speech and writing, formal and informal ? Would the following sentences have their meaning changed if we omitted "personal" or "personally" ? Would they ...
59
votes
17answers
26k 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 ...
58
votes
7answers
63k views

What is the correct plural form of LEGO: LEGO or Legos?

I've seen many people make reference to LEGO as Legos. E.g. "I enjoy playing with my Legos". But from my understanding, this is incorrect and they should be referred to simply as LEGO (in capitals as ...
55
votes
4answers
9k views

"What would you with the king?" -From the book "Eats, Shoots and Leaves"

In the book Eats, Shoots and Leaves, in order to show how punctuation changes meaning and can be used for jokes, it says: Instead of “What would you with the king?” you can have someone say in ...
54
votes
8answers
9k views

"To science the sh*t out of something"

In The Martian movie, Matt Damon (Watney), when left stranded on Mars with very limited resources to survive, says: Mark Watney: In the face of overwhelming odds, I'm left with only one option, I'm ...
53
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3answers
275k views

"The other way around" or "the other way round"

I see both phrases the other way around and the other way round very often. Which is correct? Please provide usage examples.
48
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5answers
5k views

Are there rules to determine whether a musician's title will end with “-er” or “-ist”?

There are drummers, buglers, fifers, whistlers, and fiddlers. Folks who play all the other instruments use the -ist suffix -- pianist, violinist, cellist, tympanist, guitarist, flautist, etc, etc, ad ...
39
votes
2answers
312k views

"On a page" or "in a page" for a web page

Which is the correct usage: Something on a page OR Something in a page By page, I mean a web page, not a physical book page.
37
votes
3answers
5k views

Is there a name for an adjective that cannot precede a noun?

I accept that my premise may be incorrect, but here it is. The word alone, when used as an adjective, seems only to fit in sentences of the form: The X is alone. and not in the form: ...
36
votes
7answers
26k views

Underwater equivalent of "aerodynamic"?

I was reading this book that features a description of a shark: It had fins at its sides, a triangular fin that rose from its back, a raked, aerodynamic tail, and eyes that were small, black, and ...
36
votes
5answers
8k views

At what point did "gross" come to mean "disgusting"?

The first time I heard "gross" being used to mean "disgusting" was probably around the late 1980s, and at the time I felt it was some sort of a corruption of "grotesque"... I'm wondering if there is ...
35
votes
8answers
3k views

Can a statement be "hissed" without any sibilants?

Is using hissed as a replacement for said technically acceptable in dialogue without the presence of any sibilants? "You fool!" she hissed. I understand that hissed could be used to indicate a ...
35
votes
5answers
147k views

'the USA' vs. 'the US'

I am writing an essay where I need to make a reference to the United States of America. Often I hear this shortened to the US, but sometimes people also say the USA. Are there any difference between ...
34
votes
9answers
5k views

Why is anyone in a porn movie considered a porn star?

Recently, the media made a big deal about Charlie Sheen dating a porn star. It seems that anyone who is in a porn movie is referred to as a porn star. The same is not true of anyone in a normal movie. ...
33
votes
14answers
25k views

What is the "fundamental" difference between ‘search’ and ‘seek’?

So why do human beings spend so much time playing? One reason is that we have time for leisure; animals have very little time to play as most of their life is spent sleeping and (2)________ food. ...
32
votes
9answers
7k views

Is "best" still a superlative in "best friend", as in can you have more than one "best friend"?

I was speaking to a 15-year-old native English speaker (in Australia), who referred to someone as her "best friend". Later, she revealed that this wasn't her only best friend. She had four best ...
32
votes
6answers
9k views

What is the difference between Ukraine and the Ukraine?

Time magazine (March 5th) carries the article titled, “Ukraine, not the Ukraine: The significance of three little letters,” in which the following comment of William Taylor, who served as the U.S. ...
32
votes
3answers
141k views

"parentheses" vs "parenthesis" [closed]

What is the difference between "parentheses" and "parenthesis"?
31
votes
2answers
188k views

"Is equal to" or "equals" [duplicate]

Are both is equal to and equals similar in meaning? Which is the more natural? For example, one plus one equals two or one plus one is equal to two.
31
votes
2answers
263k views

Correspond to vs. Correspond with

Is there any significant difference between Correspond to and Correspond with? I only mean in the sense of "matching", here, rather than "communication". I've looked at a few sources, but I can't ...
29
votes
8answers
11k views

Why do Americans add "The" in front of a team name, but the British do not?

I'm not certain that there is an answer to this one: Americans refer to our teams as The Example: The New York Yankees The British in my experience do not. Example: Manchester United I know ...
29
votes
4answers
2k views

What is the origin and extent of the Indian English usage of "only" to emphasize something?

I live in southern India, and for a long time I've been curious about this phenomenon that I've observed. Indian English uses the word "only" in a special way. It's used to emphasize things. Sort ...
28
votes
9answers
13k views

Why are they 'nude photos'? [duplicate]

Recent news events in the US have resulted in many headlines about "nude photos of young women" and variations. Obviously it's the women who are nude, not the photos, so why does this phrasing ...
27
votes
6answers
9k views

Are "Fish in a barrel" and "Sitting ducks" similar?

Do the phrases "Fish in a barrel" and "Sitting ducks" convey the same thing? In my opinion, they have the same tone and express something to be an easy target. Eg: Out there, they are just fish in ...
27
votes
5answers
13k views

How popular is the word “cromulent”? If I use this word in conversation with native speakers, doesn’t it look out of place?

In today’s post, “What’s the antonym for recommend?” an answerer answered "I discourage the blue sweater sounds perfectly cromulent.” As I am utterly unfamiliar with the word, “cromulent,” I looked ...
27
votes
2answers
737k views

How to correctly apply "in which", "of which", "at which", "to which", etc? [closed]

How does one correctly apply “in which”, “of which”, “at which”, “to which”, etc.? I'm confused with which one to apply when constructing sentences around these.
26
votes
4answers
74k views

Is it "chalk it up to" or "chock it up to"?

Grammarist & Our beloved StackExchange both say that the phrase "Chalk it up to" dates back to, among other things, debts being tallied on a chalkboard. However, when I hear the phrase "chock it ...
26
votes
3answers
246k views

"Should I" vs. "Shall I" vs. "Do I" in AE

In colloquial prose, is there some difference to saying "Should I/we", Shall I/we", "Do I/we" to ask someone's advice? E.g. Should I call the police? Sounds like I'm asking someone (or myself) if ...
26
votes
2answers
5k views

Indian English: What usage is allowed for "doubt" (meaning "question")?

I have a doubt about having a doubt. I learned from this question that in Indian English the word doubt is used to mean question, that is, as a countable noun. If my understanding is correct, the ...
25
votes
8answers
17k views

"When I was in college..." Do you really mean college? Or university?

When someone in the US says "When I was in college..." he can mean "college" but he can also mean "university", so I've been told. If that's true, how can we know which one he is talking about? If I ...
24
votes
10answers
8k views

What does ‘If she’s a feminist, then I’m a T. Rex’ mean? [duplicate]

There was the following passage in New York Times’ (October 6) article commenting on GOP Presidential candidate, Carly Fiorina under the headline, ‘If she’s a feminist, then I’m a T. Rex’: “Her ...
24
votes
7answers
6k views

What does “bupke” mean?

There was the following passage in the New Yorker's (August 27) article titled, “A scandal at the C.I.A. May be.” : In January I (David Shafer, novelist) filed a Freedom of Information Act request ...
24
votes
5answers
93k views

Install on, install in, install to

When I say "programs to install on a new PC" it sounds alright to me, but I'm not sure if it's the correct usage. Which one of the following should I use? Programs to install on a new PC Programs to ...
23
votes
3answers
11k views

Why are "slip roads" called that way?

Slip roads are used to allow vehicles to merge in a road whose speed is higher or, conversely, let them leave it safely. This term appears to be British English usage. Here is an example of usage: ...
21
votes
7answers
7k views

Is there a heavy usage of the word "bonfire" in English?

I wonder if the word "bonfire" is very often used in the English language. Maybe in different contexts than just the burning of something for fun, which is the main translation as I understood. I ...
21
votes
3answers
364k views

What's the difference between: Is it ok for you?, and: Is it ok with you?

What is the difference and in which context you can use: Is it ok for you? or: Is it ok with you?
21
votes
5answers
25k views

Are prior, previous, and preceding interchangeable?

If I have four moments in time (A, B, C, D), where moment D is the present, would previous, preceding, and prior be interchangeable as adjectives to refer to moments A-C? Is one of them more likely to ...
21
votes
5answers
3k views

How did the adjective “just” come to take on so many adverbial meanings?

Just is a pretty useful adverb. It can carry several different meanings: very recently: I just finished the novel. exactly: That’s just what he meant. by a narrow margin: He just missed me ...
20
votes
10answers
50k views

What is a formal word for "go-to"

The definition for "go-to" that I'm interested in is: "Denoting a person or thing that may be relied on or is regularly sought out in a particular situation." (Source: Google's definition) I want a ...
20
votes
3answers
38k views

The use of @ in a business email?

My business emails of late have all contained '@Carol' when I am referred to in a string of emails/topic. What does this mean and how am I to refer to this in future?
20
votes
5answers
11k views

Is “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet” a common or respectable English expression?

Today’s edition of the New York Times (December 16, 2014) carries an article written by Mark Bittman under the headline “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” It begins with the following passage: “What’s ...
20
votes
6answers
4k views

Is “get + person’s name + ed” a common usage in English to mean “become the person like somebody”?

I saw a headline, “Hillary Clinton Gets Gored” in today’s New York Times (September 6) article. In this article, Paul Krugman, the author compares the current political position Mrs. Hillary Clinton ...
20
votes
5answers
3k views

Why is "Consequences inflicted." not a sentence?

I was helping a friend write a paper and came across a sentence which confused me. The sentence was something along the lines of: Horrifying consequences inflicted upon innocent people. As soon as ...
20
votes
4answers
8k views

When is the phrase, “Are you sitting down?” used, and what does it exactly mean?

There was the following paragraph in the article titled “How Russia wants to undermine the U.S. election” in Time magazine (October 10): One day in June she (Arizona Secretary of state, Michele ...
19
votes
7answers
5k views

Why doesn't English have a separate word for "head hair"? (head hair vs. body hair)

The answer can be "Because it doesn't!" or "It wasn't needed!" in short but there might be a historical or linguistic explanation behind this. (Of course, every language might be lacking a word that ...
18
votes
6answers
12k views

Is it rude to refer to janitors as 'floor people'?

I came into the office today and the first thing my manager asked me was is if I saw the 'floor people' while I was walking through the building. The reason he asked me this was because he had put in ...
18
votes
4answers
5k views

What's wrong with "the Poincaré" in "the Poincaré conjecture"?

I came across this question on Academia.SE and I noticed its first comment. The question points to an article in the New Yorker magazine written by Sylvia Nasar and David Gruber, both of whom seem to ...

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