I have a question about my English Language & Usage Stack Exchange post: A question about the proper usage of articles

In my post I sought for comments about a grammatical aspect of a statement; the question was about a sequence of the articles in the statement--namely, whether they actually supported a meaning explained in the post or not. The question has been closed as being 'primarily opinion-based'. In my opinion, an answer to the question is not just a matter of opinion but allows either a Yes or No answer. Could someone help me in clarifying the matter?

3 Answers 3


Your question was clear and, indeed, easy to answer by a yes or a no. There was nothing wrong with it and it should have remained open.

But only 5 people (with a sufficiently high reputation) are needed to close a question; if 95 others see the question during that period, there is nothing they can do to prevent it from being closed. Only afterwards could they try to reopen the question; but I think 99% of all views of a question occur during the first couple of hours, which is why reopening is difficult and rare.

This site has grown tremendously over the past 7 years, but the number of high-reps needed to close a question has not increased: it's still only 5. Moderators have been swimming along with the current; they've been closing more and more questions, too, over the years. The ratio of closed questions has continued to grow. Now around 60% of all new questions appear to be closed within a couple of hours.

  • I know that here, thanking people is not welcome, so I will not thank you for the comment; but it is really helpful.
    – Giorgi
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 15:59
  • @Giorgi: Comment or answer? Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 16:03
  • Answer, of course.
    – Giorgi
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 16:04
  • @Giorgi: Grazie. Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 22:08

I probably should have closed it as proofreading, but it is not a good question for our site.

Questions that ask for only a yes/no answer do not further the goal of building up a library of expert answers. It doesn't take an expert to say yes or no: it takes a coin-flip. There will be nothing there that will help others in the future. There was no research provided. It’s not going to draw a quality answer.

  • 1
    An answer can provide as much of an explanation/generalisation as it likes. A good answer will elaborate/explain/generalise. That's not a problem. Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 22:08
  • I agree with Cerberus. In general, If one posting a question can learn from an answer why someone else could not learn from it in the future as well? So this depends on an answer.
    – Giorgi
    Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 10:47
  • @tchrist Why "probably"? You put it on hold as falling exactly under the category of primarily oppinion based.
    – Giorgi
    Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 11:16

"Proper" according to who?

There's no language academy to tell us what our language is meant to be. Any question asking what is "proper", unless it refers to some specific style guide, should be closed as opinion based.

If you want to avoid this problem, ask what is "natural", ideally with a specific dialect of English (US, UK, Australia, Indian, etc.)

  • Not necessarily so. "Natural" is a language itself. "Proper" involves the meaning of the norm--namely, that there are norms you must follow if you want to communicate with others, as well as with yourself, in this language rather than something else. Therefore, "proper" according to the norms that exclusively make it possible for the reader and the author, in this case, to communicate on the same subject matter in a specific language.
    – Giorgi
    Commented Apr 23, 2017 at 9:29
  • @Giorgi That sounds like you're asking about "conventional" not "proper". Commented Apr 23, 2017 at 9:42
  • @ curiousdannii Doesn't "proper" involve the connotation of the normative?
    – Giorgi
    Commented Apr 23, 2017 at 9:46
  • If yes, it would sound more natural to ask about a proper usage rather than a conventional one.
    – Giorgi
    Commented Apr 23, 2017 at 9:51
  • @Giorgi What is "proper" is a matter of opinion. What is "conventional" is a matter of research and data. Commented Apr 23, 2017 at 9:56
  • It is not very much clear. What is accepted by one on a conventional basis is proper from one's personal standpoint. Something can be 'proper' and often is so on a conventional basis. From your logic it would follow that the conventional is a matter of oppinion rather than research and data.
    – Giorgi
    Commented Apr 23, 2017 at 10:10
  • @Giorgi There are different conventions because there are different dialects and varieties of English. There are different opinions about what is proper as well. That doesn't change the fact that one is a description of what is natural and conventional, and the other is a prescriptive value judgement. Commented Apr 23, 2017 at 10:22
  • Again, from what you say yourself it follows that one correctly can ask about a grammatical category what is a proper ( of the required type; suitable or appropriate) usage of it within a specific lingual convention such as a specific dialect of English. Within a specific lingual convention, what is "proper" (what is of the required type; suitable or appropriate to communicate in this language) cannot be a matter of opinion, for the convention is already structured by its already established norms (in this sense it is “natural”; it just is as is). continued.
    – Giorgi
    Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 14:06
  • But you can use the norms either correctly (properly) rather than naturally or incorrectly (improperly) rather than unnaturally. Here, just the prescriptive rather than neutral language matters: If you want to communicate with people in this “natural” language, you must follow the norms accepted by this language. So here, "proper" is a proper option relative to an improper "natural" one. My question was just of this kind. Thus I used “proper” properly. I searched the internet and never find as an idiom, “natural usage” of a grammatical form.
    – Giorgi
    Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 14:07

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