Someone recently asked a question that had been asked on ELL before. I recommended that he search the site for the appropriate terminology ("singular and plural attributive nouns"), he thanked me, and that was that. However, I imagine that the question will get closed as a duplicate.

ELL recommends that people search for existing answers before posting questions. However, I suspect that this person had no idea that "attributive noun" was even a thing, so he couldn't have done a reasonable search. I therefore have two questions:

  1. Where can someone ask a question such as:

I want to know whether "card-parser" or "cards-parser" is correct. I think that a similar question may have been asked here before, but I don't know what terms to search for. Can anyone make a recommendation?

Is this site's main chat room the right venue for this?

  1. Is it even worthwhile to recommend that people make such queries? I expect that it would reduce the number of duplicates, but perhaps it wouldn't make much of a difference.

(By the way, I did search this site for discussions of this issue but came up with nothing. I hope I was using the right search terms . . .)

  • 3
    Even if you did find the perfect search terms, that doesn’t mean that the question with your answer uses those terms or is tagged correctly unfortunately. This is why I am opposed to over-correcting questions. Questions should be phrased the way a learner trying to find an answer would phrase it (to some extent) so that when people search for those terms, they find it. Here on meta would be a good place to ask for help finding similar questions that might help a learner.
    – ColleenV
    Apr 27, 2022 at 12:09
  • @ColleenV That's true; there's certainly no guarantee that a similar question would include the appropriate terms. But it might. In this case, searching "card" and "parser" would surely turn up nothing relevant. Apr 27, 2022 at 17:42
  • Yes, I agree; that was more as an aside. If I had a good answer for you, I'd put it in the answer box, not a comment ;) I think asking on here on meta is the best course. Chat is a possibility, but meta is better at catching people's attention across time zones.
    – ColleenV
    Apr 27, 2022 at 18:44
  • @ColleenV Got it. Thank you for the suggestion! Apr 28, 2022 at 5:21
  • I'm not sure if finding duplicates is really that related to what you're asking, but we do have a possible-duplicates tag if it is.
    – ColleenV
    Apr 28, 2022 at 20:29

1 Answer 1


As far as recommending people search for particular terms with the goal of reducing duplicates, I don't think it would be that useful. This is supposed to be a community of experts, so it is far easier for the community to find the duplicate than the person asking the question. There is no shame in having a question closed as a duplicate. I don't think we want to discourage duplicates (if the questions are well-asked), because those questions can help others more easily find answers. If you look at all the questions linked to What is the difference between can and could in 'Can/could you please explain this to me?' in the side panel (or below all the answers at the bottom of the page on smaller screens), each one of those represents another way of wording the question that someone might search on and still end up finding a highly scored answer.

We are asking people to write their question about learning English in English. We know that is difficult when English isn't one's first language and we should not expect that a learner will be able to correctly identify that their question is about attributives or predictive complements. That said, we can (and should) expect the person asking to include a reasonable amount of detail, such as explaining what they think, the sorts of things they tried to do to find an answer, their motivation for asking, or other aspects that will help us write good answers. Some prior discussions about that:

If you're asking for help finding the right English terminology to represent a particular structure or relationship for your own edification, then ask a question, either here or on EL&U, depending on what sort of answer you would like. If you had a hard time finding the correct terminology for something, other people probably did too, and a question including the search terms you thought of will probably help others searching for the same thing. If you managed to find an answer, it's perfectly acceptable to ask the question, then answer it yourself.

If you're asking for help finding the right search terms because you're looking for a duplicate that you know exists somewhere on ELL but you're having trouble finding it, then ask the community for help here on meta.

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