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Little trick for finding the right language construct

Asked by [ Admin ]

I thought I'd share this little trick for finding out the best way to say something. It isn't 100% accurate but it usually gives a very good hint!

Let's take those two sentences as an example: "I gave food to my dog." vs "I fed my dog.".

*I know this one is pretty obvious to native English speakers, but I couldn't come up with a better example :(. If you find a better example, let me know in the comments.

All you have to do is type both sentences in Google and compare the number of results. Don't forget to: 1) quote the sentence 2) omit unnecessary words ("dog" in this case as it could be replaced by any animal name without changing the meaning of the phrase).

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As you can see, it's pretty obvious that the second one (I fed my) is more widely used and that's usually a fairly good indicator that it is indeed the right construct.

PS: If you want an accurate answer to your question, either open up your grammar books or ask a question here on iRosetta !

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5 answers

4

j. d. o'conal [ Editor ]

This is a method which has been in use for a very long time: accessing corpora statistics to show language usage. While Google is a great and freely accessible tool, it is tainted by the large amount of poor writing on the Internet.

There are many other good corpora available for free on the Internet. I use the British National Corpus, available here and here. These web tools also allow much more specific searches, e.g., searching for green used as an adjective near grass.

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2

mark_59

"he ain't right in the head" 3 million hits

"he isn't right in the head" 324 thousand hits

admittedly a contrived example, but still.

NN comments
oli
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  1. Good reminder that this trick isn’t always accurate.
sep332
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Try the other contraction: “He’s not right in the head” gets > 30,000,000 hits

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0

harrow

although this would show you the most popular, its not necessarily 'correct'... specially when it comes to slang or short text.

NN comments
oli
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Indeed, it isn’t always accurate but it usually is a fairly good indicator (that’s why I included the last paragraph).

daniel_54
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Often in language you want to know what is popular and idiomatic more than what is officially correct.

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