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I am not clear when should be used. Since the question should always give a context, I am not sure when should be used instead of .

I imagine could be used for the following question, but I would find such question not acceptable.

Meaning of house

I keep using house in the wrong way. What is the exact meaning of house?

What is the difference between , and ? When should I use one instead of the other one?

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  • If your example question were asked, I personally would vote to close on the grounds that no context has been supplied. We couldn't possibly give a reasonably short, unambiguously correct answer to such a broad/vague question. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Apr 12 '13 at 17:25
  • Since I can't register here, and I must log in to post (though not to comment), I'll just link the answer I tried to post here instead. – John Lawler Apr 13 '13 at 17:08
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is for questions about the definitions of a word. is for questions about understanding a particular sentence or construction. Think of Yoichi-san's many questions on ELU about a certain New York Times columnist's articles, which tend to use metonymy and other rhetorical flourishes to the point of being almost incomprehensible.

Personally, I don't much like , because it's often used as an "I don't know what tag to use" placeholder. Plus, if your question really is just about the meanings of words, shouldn't you be looking in the dictionary instead? But I definitely see it as different than .

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  • Who asks the question could have first looked the dictionary, and not found the definition that applies in the specific case s/he is interested; the question would still be about the meaning of a word. – kiamlaluno Jan 29 '13 at 17:02
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    +1 For the last paragraph. I feel the same way about "grammar" or "grammaticality", which usually just means "is it OK?" And who would ever search on either "meaning" or "grammar"? – StoneyB on hiatus Jan 30 '13 at 1:22
  • Would "columnist" be a better fit than "journalist"? – Andrew Grimm Jan 30 '13 at 2:50
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    Thanks for the suggestion, @AndrewGrimm. :) – Martha Jan 30 '13 at 2:53
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    @Martha you could say its meaning is more accurate. :) – Andrew Grimm Jan 30 '13 at 2:55

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