I think some high-rep members overuse the "possible duplicate" claim and should be notified about it. "duplicate" means "duplicate", not merely related. I find that overuse to be unfair on responders who give or want to give nice answers and end up not posting them, or feeling that their answers have been to no avail or unjustly overlooked or underrated. In my opinion, that unjustified obsession with finding "(just in case) possible duplicates" evidences laziness on the part of some such members and even disrespect for members who are able to come up with a fine reply.

Here are a couple of examples:

  1. Canadian English - How to relate duties to a job role

  2. Do I have to put a comma before "in which" here?

  • 4
    You have a valid point, but your two examples are not the best to illustrate your point. Unfortunately, I do not have the time to search for better examples -- I am sorry. Note also that the OP of a question marked as a duplicate can explain why his question is not a duplicate, and if he does a decent job of explanation, the question is usually reopened. And often, some other user perfoms this service for an inexperienced OP. But I agree that we cry "duplicate" too often and sometimes the older Q has not very good answers.
    – ab2
    Dec 30, 2017 at 5:17
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    Can you come up with more examples? Those two are obviously duplicates.
    – Mitch
    Dec 30, 2017 at 15:54
  • 1
    @Mitch It seems to me that our concepts of "duplicate" differ widely. For the "duplicate" assertion to hold, the site says "This question was marked as an exact duplicate of an existing question". I really can't see how question (1) above, where there is no referent, can be related to sentences in which there was a referent (situation, box). I also can't see how a case in which responder's answer said "For both of your sentences, the clause can be analyzed as either restrictive or non-restrictive, so in cases like this, the comma is optional" can be found to be of help in a case of...
    – Gustavson
    Dec 30, 2017 at 23:20
  • ...clear non-restrictiveness. It seems to me that some members don't read the questions and answers carefully to establish whether there is real duplicity. They just hurry to say "Possible duplicate!" and thus stop new, more to-the-point answers from coming up.
    – Gustavson
    Dec 30, 2017 at 23:23
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    I think you and I agree that some EL&U participants seem to be in a great haste to vote to close questions that they don't like. But I don't share your view that close voters lean especially hard on Duplicate as their close reason. As I've noted elsewhere, the real workhorse for close voters in a hurry is Show Research, which doesn't even require searching for and suggesting a more-or-less related question, as Duplicate does. The nice thing about a Duplicate closure is that it makes an assertion about the distinctness (and thus usefulness) of the question—and so invites substantive refutation.
    – Sven Yargs
    Dec 31, 2017 at 1:44

1 Answer 1


A duplicate question is not necessarily identical: that would result in the questions being merged (so all the answers to both questions appear in one place, because all the answers are relevant in precisely the same way to both questions). Closure as a duplicate simply points to where an existing answer already covers what's being asked. This is made explicit in the banner at the top of the closed question:

"This question already has an answer here..."

which points to another question which answers the closed one. It's a subtle difference, but the difference is why there are two mechanisms. Merging questions doesn't happen very often, because it's not often that two questions are identical. It normally applies to one question being asked twice, either by the same person or by a bunch of classmates seeking help with schoolwork.

A question closed as a duplicate means that the linked question contains answers which may be applied to answer the closed question, in much the same way as a tutorial question is answered by the teaching material — some lateral thinking or application may be required.

If you believe that more explanation is needed, create a better answer on the question which is open, covering not only what is asked in that question but also a more general/complete answer which would mean less lateral thinking or application is needed for other questions linked to it. Because you are answering an old question, it will not gain as much attention as a new question, and you will accrue rep from it more slowly; but an answer will bump the question on the home page, and a good answer will gain rep regardless.

For your example 1, Canadian English - How to relate duties to a job role, the question itself is either fundamentally unclear or mere proofreading, "Is it correct?". The linked question provides the answer "Yes, it is correct, along with the alternative in which." That's not an incorrect link: it does answer the question asked.

In example 2, Do I have to put a comma before "in which" here?, you have provided a good answer which has [at the time of this post] a net score of +26. But Peter Shor's answer in the first link says exactly what you do, in a slightly different way: "Use a comma before non-restrictive clauses, and don't use a comma before restrictive clauses." So that's not an incorrect link either.

  • 2
    "One or more answers (or parts thereof) to this other question address your question" seems like a rather un-useful standard compared to either "all the answers to this other question answer your question" or at least "the accepted/top-voted answer answers your question." If a random, unspecified subset of answers to the "duplicate" have the 2nd OP's answer, how is that poster supposed to know which has/have the answer(s)?
    – 1006a
    Dec 31, 2017 at 17:41
  • I have thought that the link ought to be to the answer(s) rather than the question. But that's something for Meta.SE. And indeed it seems it's already there.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Dec 31, 2017 at 20:27

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