I have a question about my English Language & Usage Stack Exchange post: Who got jack followed by?

Specifically, a comment from WS2.

I'm a native English speaker curious about my own language. I don't use stackexchange frequently, and when I do, I use it anonymously. I don't recall ELL having any presence from the last visit I made to ELU, so I am greatly unfamiliar with it.

I am no English professor or college student majoring in ELU, but I'm not foreign to the language either. What site am I supposed to use?


I'll quote my problem:

From ELU's Meta:

"The proposed solution was to create a new community where English learners could ask their questions without fear of those questions being deemed too basic."

From ELL's Meta:

"If your question is about the English language, but is unlikely to ever occur to a native speaker (except in the context of teaching English as a foreign language), you should ask it here."

I am a native speaker and this question has occurred. Where and how do I fit?

  • 2
    It's one person's opinion, and he was only trying to be helpful. EL&U has many non-native speakers whose English is very good but sometimes they get stuck on something, the answer to which other users interpret as being rather clear and obvious. Don't sweat it. And may I suggest that you delve into the archives if you want to deepen your knowledge of the passive voice.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 10:44
  • I took no offense to it. I would have upvoted the comment, if that was a feature awarded to anon users.
    – noname
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 11:06
  • 4
    Which site are you supposed to use? That is addressed at this meta question. There is a similar discussion on ELL’s meta. As for the comment itself, your question doesn’t give much details about why you are asking, and you leave what looks like a proper name in all lower case, so it’s no surprise people wondered if you weren’t one of the scores of non-native speakers who stumble across this site and leave a question.
    – J.R.
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 11:33
  • @J.R. Those discussions seem to emphasize "If your question is about the English language, but is unlikely to ever occur to a native speaker (except in the context of teaching English as a foreign language), you should ask it here." Issue is that I am native speaker, and it has occurred.
    – noname
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 11:52
  • 2
    @forcedoutofanon Your question seems to be about elementary grammatical possibility which is usually a question made by learners. There's nothing deep here or at least your question doesn't lead towards any depth beyond the things that are taught in English as a foreign language.
    – Mitch
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 13:58
  • 4
    @forcedoutofanon I think you're misunderstanding the ELL Meta. Just because it has occurred to a native speaker, doesn't mean it is likely to. This situation may be one of those. I'm not saying it belongs on ELL but I acknowledge that native speakers can have questions that fall under ELL's scope if the concept is elementary enough to not be a good fit for ELU.
    – Hank
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 14:41

1 Answer 1


The operational difference between a simple question by a language learner and a (for want of a better term) native speaker is that the native speaker knows the answer almost instinctively, and is more interested in the deeper issues than whether something is merely grammatically correct.

For example, Barrie England is a respected on this site. He asked this question:

Can the verb 'be' be modified?

On the face of it, the answer is simply either 'yes' or 'no'; cite some examples and you're done. But the accepted answer looks more deeply, considering the existential vs the copula meaning of be.

Here's another example:

Why is "our today's meeting" wrong?

Again, the question was asked by a respected user. The title of the question seems even more basic, bordering on proofreading had it been asked in the form Is "our today's meeting" right? However, the question goes on to cite examples of similar questions that don't seem as objectionable. The apparent inconsistency highlights what the OP considered to be the point of interest.

If your question is of a similar nature - something seems odd to you, but you can't quite put your finger on what it is, try explaining what it is that makes it seem strange to you. Between a choice of EL&U and ELL, I'd say these questions are definitely more appropriate on EL&U - I'd go further and say that these kinds of questions are sorely needed here. But we also need to know what it is that you found so intriguing about the subject matter that you'd post a question about it.

  • 1
    +1, especially for that last sentence. Many times, it's not so much about the core question as it is about how the core question is framed. Newcomers who ask like learners are likely to be regarded as learners, whether they are native speakers or not.
    – J.R.
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 15:25
  • 1
    Is fluent, defined as "3. Ready in the use of words; voluble; copious; having words at command and uttering them with facility and smoothness; as a fluent speaker." in Noah Webster's An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828), the better word you lacked?
    – Tonepoet
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 16:20
  • @Tonepoet Fluent must be it. I'm fluent in English, although I'm just an Indian living in the Middle East. I grew up in a mixed cultural environment juggling multiple languages. I'm not a native English speaker, and I'm certainly not a learner either. A lot of the grammar and thingies I know is from experience, not from formal training in the language. So I might think like a native speaker oftentimes, but I will make Indianismic blunders as well, albeit rarely.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 16:39
  • 1
    @NVZ "Indianismic" -- I like it! But after Googling it, I think you are cofefeing around with Indianism.
    – ab2
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 21:38
  • 1
    @ab2 I had to. I was referring to "elements of Indian English, which might appear as non standard to native English speakers." And I love to covfefe the meaning out of new words. ;)
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 2:46
  • @Tonepoet Thanks - that gets close, but I’m looking for a step up from that (expert?). If we use gym training as an analogy, a learner asks what a plank is, a fluent speaker can do planks on demand, while the (native speaker? expert?) asks what really counts as a plank.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 6:14
  • @Lawrence I'd say one is a native speaker if they think or their thoughts use the language automatically.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 19:44
  • @NVZ Perhaps one would be proficient. I’m not Indian and I don’t speak Tamil, unless knowing a greeting and the sounds of a few words counts. Even if I became fluent in Tamil, I’d never be a native Tamil speaker. Just as I’m not from Chicago, and no matter how familiar I might become with Chicago, I would never be able to claim that I was born there - naturalised, perhaps, but not native. Even so, I can see where you’re coming from, and it might be a matter of perspective: whether you’re native to ‘it’ or whether ‘it’ is native to you.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 23:07

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