May I say something? I am a Chinese, and my English may be not good at all.

To non-native learners, and I'm one of them,it's really hard to decide what kind of language question is inappropriate to ask.

Many of our difficulties in understanding or using English come from culture,history,life,tradition,etc. Not merely limited to grammar or syntax.

To me, sometimes a maybe "easy word" in a native speaker's mind can be quite subtle or tricky,and I really hope people would understand that. I did consult dictionaries(sometimes more than three of them)before asking questions here, but trust me, in many cases I was not yet sure of the meaning of those "easy" words and sentences.

And I would make bold to appeal here that ELL would relex restrictions according to non-native English learners' realistic demand, for culture,history, life, etc. are inseparable from any language.

Anyway, I'll try my best to make my questions neat and standardized.


1 Answer 1


To me, sometimes a maybe "easy word" in a native speaker's mind can be quite subtle or tricky, and I really hope people would understand that.

Yes, we do understand that. As a matter of fact, you've done a good job summarizing why ELL was created in the first place. Moreover, those subtle and tricky parts of the language usually make the best ELL questions.

I'm not sure what you mean, though, when you make a bold appeal to relax restrictions. You've asked 17 questions in a mere six days, and more than two-thirds of them remain open. All of those have been answered.

The Stack Exchange network, of which ELL is just a small part of, has a culture whereby excellence is rewarded, and questions are expected to stay on-topic. It's not a place where anyone can ask anything in any way at any time. Questions are expected to be well-researched; questions that are inadequately researched, or don't contain sufficient context, are put on hold until more information is provided. Members of the community are expected to uphold the quality of the site by voting, and that includes votes to close when questions are considered off-topic.

Why? By upholding certain standards, we keep the best people coming back for more. A site that gets overrun with sloppy questions that can be easily answered with a dictionary becomes a very boring place to visit. Experts leave, and stragglers yawn.

We won't relax restrictions, but we will help guide you into asking better questions. Those who answer questions have the responsibility to be polite, civil, and helpful, but those who ask questions have the responsibility to make their questions answerable, and, hopefully in some way, interesting to the community at large.

That said, I think most of the regular ELL users are quite cognizant of how most of our questions are being asked in a non-native language. We're not going to start downvoting because you're confused by something, or because you've made a few grammar mistakes. I'm sure your English is much better than my Chinese.

With that in mind, please understand what it means when a question gets closed. It doesn't mean it was a bad question, and it doesn't mean the question should not have been asked. If you ask 20 questions, chances are a few of them will get closed. It's inevitable. Even Yoichi gets questions closed every now and then.

The best thing you can do is keep consulting the dictionaries, the way you have been, but remember to include what you have found when you ask your question. Why? Because when others know what you have learned, they are in a better position to answer your question. You wouldn't want them to spend a lot of time looking up and explaining information you already understand, right?

Also, when asking about the meaning of a word or phrase, provide the context. Tell us where you got it from. For example, don't ask:

"What does 'He went to the ball' mean?"

without providing more information about where you found it. Why? Because meaning is often tied to context. "He went to the ball" can mean a lot of different things, depending on where you ran across it:

He went to the ball (x4)

I'd hate to spend a lot of time explaining how defenses are supposed to run to the ball, only to find out you had been reading Cinderella to your children, and had wondered what "go to the ball" meant.

  • 3
    Incidentally, the "Yoichi" I refer to does an excellent job of weaving for culture, history, life, etc. into his questions. That kind of behavior is encouraged here. But one can't always write a question in just two or three lines and expect that everyone else will understand all the cultural implications by osmosis. That's why Yoichi's emperor vs. king question is one of my all-time favorites on the SE network.
    – J.R. Mod
    Oct 25, 2013 at 5:27

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