[Disclaimer: I'm a community manager at Stack Exchange, but my participation on ELL is in an unofficial capacity. On the main site, and for the most part on meta, I'm just a regular user.]

I'm a native speaker of English, having grown up in the United States. I like answering ELL questions because it's an interesting exercise in making sure my writing and my explanations are clear and succinct. Plus, I like helping people. :)

However, I recognize that teaching is one of the most effective ways to learn. Therefore, answering questions here is just as beneficial for someone learning English - if not more so - than asking questions. So, I don't want to step on the toes of people trying to improve their understanding of English through teaching others.

Is this something I should be concerned about? Should I limit the number of questions I answer in a time period, or wait a certain amount of time before answering to give others a shot? Or is it okay for native speakers to answer questions whenever/however they like?

4 Answers 4


Jump in, please! This community is pretty much Questioners on one side and Answerers on the other—there's only a handful of folks who swing both ways. And if there was any limit on Responding they'd've hanged me and half a dozen others from the nearest lamppost months ago.

Fay ce que vouldras is the motto, or From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs if your taste slips to the left. (As you see, we’re also pretty antipathetic to Strunk-&-White prescriptivism, although careful to point out what the Mustache Petes in charge of classrooms and exams require. But if you’re inclined to take up the Old Cause you’ll be given a respectful hearing before you’re drawn and quartered.)

  • +1 for too many reasons to list :)
    – oerkelens
    Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 8:50
  • You and Geoffrey Pullum should start a club. In the meantime, perhaps I'll start dropping by here more, too.
    – Pops
    Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 14:53
  • 1
    @Pops To be named, even pronominally, in the same sentence with Prof. Pullum is the high point of my year. Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 15:17
  • 2
    You had me at, "Jump in, please!" That's when I clicked the upvote button.
    – J.R. Mod
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 10:59
  • I clicked upvote immediately after I read "Jump in, please!" too. Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 16:03

What an extremely friendly and concerned question!

I agree with StoneyB, please jump in!

I fully agree that teaching is the best way of learning, and some users are proving that point here every day. Yet, since a lot of the questions here are getting several answers, I don't think anyone will be deterred by you answering questions.

Also, don't assume that since you are a native speaker, there is nothing left to learn, or all your answers will be seen as perfect ;) It would be unfair to rob a native speaker of their chance of learning through teaching, just because they happen to be native speakers, in much the same way it would be wrong to ban answers from non-native speakers.

  • Good point! I learn (or re-learn) a lot writing answers here. Thanks for your response. :)
    – hairboat
    Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 12:54

Many ELL questions (the best ones, in my opinion), are ones where the answer is obvious, but the explanation is elusive, like the one that asked about:

Our hope is diminished.
The flooding has diminished.
Please diminish your voice.

Right away, I knew one of those sounded fine, one could maybe be improved, and one sounded way off. However, explaining why was not an easy task; I had to think about it for quite some time. I'm glad there's someone else who gets something out of tackling what may initially seem like an obvious question, but soon turns into a tricky challenge.

As for your concerns about waiting to give others a shot, please don't hold back. I enjoy ELL, but if there's one thing I'd like to see changed, it's that we don't get enough people answering questions. Too many questions get a lone answer and a green checkmark, and that's that.

The better questions on ELL can rarely be fully addressed by one answer. There are AmE/BrE variations, slang vs. formal registers, connotations and innuendos, conflicting guidance about punctuation, etc. What sounds fine to me may sound off to you, and vice-versa. Getting two or three answers below each question – not repeating each other, and not competing with each other, but complementing one another – will give everyone a richer view of the English language.

Keep up the good work, and chime in whenever you'd like.


As far as I'm concerned, this site was created for us "Answerists", such that we can answer questions and learn all manner of amazing things about English, Writing, Linguistics, etc. Those asking the questions, by their hard work and dedication, are doing us a great favor and service that helps sustain this site so that we may continue the pursuit of the sublime joy of answering.

Welcome to ELL!


  • Well of course you're right, but I don't think we're supposed to come right out and say so :) Commented Mar 8, 2014 at 17:33

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