When can 'the' be used before a name?

That is just an example. I have noticed that people here don't bother to vote much. Can something be done about it?

Now I don't know which one of those is a correct or more correct answer.

  • It hasn't been a day yet. Wait a while longer. meta.ell.stackexchange.com/q/1307/9161
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 13:56
  • @ColleenV as I said that it was just an example. If you care to browse my other questions you'll find that nearly none of the answers there have more than 2 or maximum 3 votes. And one of vote among those 2 or 3 is mine. This isn't the sign of a healthy site, I guess. Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 14:18
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    Hah! And you thought the lack of votes is the main problem!
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 15:35
  • @M.A.Ramezani being sarcastic without any explanation on a serious question makes you look like a Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 15:41
  • I think what @M.A.Ramezani is referring to is that when I looked at the question, I realized that it was possibly a duplicate of a question that does have up-voted answers.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 15:43
  • Relax dude. I just wanted to indicate that the lack of votes is the smallest of the problems of the voting system in ELL. Sheesh. See meta.ell.stackexchange.com/questions/814/…, meta.ell.stackexchange.com/questions/1137/…. Also, that's not the only problem. See meta.ell.stackexchange.com/questions/1010/…
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 15:44
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    @M.A.Ramezani call me dudine Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 15:47
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    I'll add that you shouldn't depend on the voting patterns of others to tell you which is the "correct" or "more correct" answer. That's the wrong way to look at the system. Answers should be evaluated on their own merits, on the logic of their argumentation, presentation of concepts, and corroboration by sources. In other words, you should apply independent thought to analyzing answers, not rely on the opinions of others (which is why accepting an answer ✅ is independent of upvoting it 👍).
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 15:53
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    @DanBron Even though I mostly agree (that we should evaluate answers as such), it's a really difficult task for learners. From a learner's point of view, telling which answer is correct can be pretty much like being in the show To Tell the Truth. Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 16:12
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    @DamkerngT. I really think that's an unhealthy way for a learner to look at it. Just because he's not an expert in English doesn't mean he's incapable of critical thinking or absolved of that responsibility. He's got an answer, supported by an affirming, and backed up (ideally) by credible authorities. He can consider the argument and investigate the authorities to come to his own conclusion. Deferring to the voting community is at best lazy and at worst self-destructive. People have been wrong in groups, sometimes astonishingly large groups.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 16:20
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    (And the bandwagon effect is very much evident in voting patterns on SE, to the extent that a highly-upvoted answe may only have been read and considered in detail by the first 2 or 3 upvoters, and thereafter everyone else upvotes it without reading it [carefully] because it's already been upvoted. This is the same trap OP is setting for himself. Meanwhile late answers which are down the page may be significantly better - or even "righter"! - and yet languish for want of votes. OP asked the question. He should do answerers the courtesy of reading and analyzing each answer on its own merits.)
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 16:23
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    @DanBron Also, later answers may not have received the views of earlier ones. Some folks UV answers they feel are best, and if they're only judging by the answers that are currently available. Two weeks later, the "best" answer might have changed but they don't come back to reevaluate their vote. I think that trying to judge which answer is best by the number of votes is a trap. What if a single answer doesn't completely answer the question, but two good ones taken together do?
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 16:52
  • @ColleenV Agreed wholeheartedly. In real life, if one had a question, and asked a friend "hey, can you tell me..?", you wouldn't then withhold judgement on that answer until you l'd gotten a chance to present it to a bunch of other people to get their opinions on it! ("Well, I was wondering about X, so I asked Bob, and he said Y.... what do you think about that? Yea or nay?"). Opinions need validation through polls. Facts do not.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 17:04
  • @DanBron you said - "supported by an affirming, and backed up (ideally) by credible authorities.". Do you mean to say that answers have links in them of credible references which I should read to verify the answer? Okay, so none of the answers I gother here ever had any references, some answers had graphs though for knowing idiomatic usage of words, but that was it. Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 17:56
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    These days people tend to say dudette rather than dudine (to the extent that they use a feminine form of dude at all). Bonus points for dudine, though :-)
    – user230
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 10:46

4 Answers 4


Two factors which might contribute to fewer votes per question here:

  1. Inability or reluctance to form an opinion

    Take a quick browse through our questions and you'll see that a very large proportion of our users have great difficulty framing their own questions. It's not unreasonable to suppose they may have similar difficulty reading and understanding the questions of others; and even those who do read questions may feel considerable diffidence about expressing an opinion of their value.

  2. Higher Question/user ratio

    I glanced at the stats for the sites you're active on, Seasoned Advice, Photography and Parenting. They all have usercounts (26k, 24k, 11k) comparable to ELL's 15k, but many fewer questions per day (6.6, 7.4, 2.7 against ELL's 30). Each day there are 3500 to 4000 users for each new question on those sites, where here there are only about 500 users for each new question. The numbers are similar when you consider only fairly high-rep users, the ones who do most of the work, including the voting. There are 30-40 users with rep>1000 for each question on the other sites; here there are only 6.

Our attention has been spread a lot thinner these days; I imagine I spend more time on the site than most, and it's been months since I was able to look closely at as many as half the questions.

The other site you frequent, SO, operates on such a vastly different scale I'm not sure how to treat it.

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    Yay for statistics! The question user ratio explains something I intuited, but couldn't really articulate.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 17:22
  • I totally agree with your answer. Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 17:47

I have always maintained that most regular users are dying to upvote a really good question – if they could only find one.

I often plead, I often urge: "Please, provide context. Please, provide details. Explain why you're asking the question. Show us your references."

I did some investigating into some of your questions, to see what I could find.

One of the first ones I looked at was this question. It took me a minute to even figure out what the question was, because you've put the question in the title. All told, it's overly brief. It's cryptic. Before I can even start thinking of an answer, I have to figure out what your question is.

It's a fairly interesting question, but, in its current format, I can't bring myself to upvote it.

The question should be clear in the body of the question (not in the title only). I would've formatted the question something like this:

'Stay a long time' vs. 'Stay FOR a long time'

Here is a quote from The Faraway Tree, a series of children's books:

He is going to stay quite a long time.

I want to know, why doesn't this sentence include a "for":

He is going to stay for quite a long time.

Why is for not necessary there? Will it be wrong if I use for there?

I thought your comment here was telling:

@pazzo I thought it would be obvious. I am talking about the in front of faraway tree. That is the name of the tree, isn't it?

No, it's not obvious – and that might be part of the problem.

I will upvote questions (I've done so more than 700 times), but I'm not going to upvote when questions appear sloppy and hastily written, or only provide minimal context.

Bottom line: If you want more of your questions to be upvoted, you should strive to write better questions.

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    Firstly, I would clarify that I have no interest in getting my questions up voted. This thread is about the answers to my questions being up voted. That too because I won't know otherwise which answer to select. Though, from now on I will add some more details in my questions, I d like to tell you that I type usually on this site from phone. It is very difficult to type, copy, paste from phone. That's one reason I try to be minimalist. Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 2:46
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    Voting on answers can be as fickle as voting on questions. Sometimes a simple answer will get a ton of upvotes, sometimes we'll work hard to produce something that only garners one or ttwo upvotes. It depends on how many people view the question and how many of those people feel inspired to upvote. Sorry I misunderstood what you were driving at, but my answer here is still pertinent. If your question is hard to understand, people are less likely to vote, because it's harder to figure out which answer is a correct one.
    – J.R. Mod
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 8:54
  • Thanks to you for being kind enough to spend time in writing the answer here. You were helpful. Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 11:42
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    Also, the better a question is the more likely that it will attract great answers and more views, which results in more votes.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 14:11

This query of the top upvoted answers shows that there is plenty of voting going on on ELL.

Some possible reasons why answers for certain questions may not get a lot of votes:

  • The question or answers are new, and not many people have read them yet.
  • The question isn't very interesting and doesn't get many views, so not a lot of folks have looked at it to react to the answers.
  • The answers are straight-forward and there's not much to distinguish one from the other
  • The answers are correct, but not good enough make someone think, "wow, that's a great answer" and click the button.

I think incorrect answers get voted down pretty quickly, so maybe the community bar for up-voting is just high. I don't think it's a sign of an unhealthy site necessarily.

  • June 20, 2024 UPDATE: I would wager that all the top twenty questions (today) entered the hot questions network. SE users from outside the ELL community, who joined ELL when they spotted the question and either wanted to post an answer or vote on the ones they agreed with the most.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 20 at 10:48
  • @Mari-LouA I doubt that I'm the only person who has stopped participating after the announcement of the AI partnerships. I volunteered here to help people, not donate my labor to train the AI for a trillion dollar company.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jun 21 at 12:09

The question, correctly or incorrectly, has been marked as a duplicate. I am perhaps hesitant to vote on the answers of a duplicate question. I do not even know what happens to duplicate questions. Maybe they disappear after awhile.

If you want a better answer to this particular question, perhaps you could edit it to include links to other questions you have posted so one can easily access them and look at what might be going on voting-wise. The more effort you put into something, the more likely a native speaker will put forth more effort, because they can spend their time actually answering and not doing stuff you yourself can do and provide.

As for "in general," English, as any language, is a complicated affair, and sometimes I personally will not vote on an answer that I don't think does the question justice. That is, if an answer is only "helpful" but does not deal with the subject in a rather comprehensive manner, or at least from a detailed or technical perspective, or if it is only partially true, or if it may fit the one example a user asks about but not a very similar one, I may not upvote it.

I know every answer cannot be a thesis--and I am not necessarily in favor of answers that read like chapters from a book (a la BenKovitz and others, even myself, at times) but some answers are too facile, even if a bit helpful. I guess I look for a happy medium.

  • I created this thread long before that question was closed. Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 0:22
  • FWIW, dupes are never automatically deleted by any of the roomba scripts; generally, the idea is to keep around (and possibly upvote) any good questions that drive traffic to a canonical question that would otherwise be harder to search for effectively. Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 21:41

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