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The Ropes

Usage Assistance Websites and the English Language

By Barbara McClintock, Certified Translator

The beauty of the Internet, other than its speed and convenience, lies in its free resources and knowledge sharing. You can take advantage of the assistance of expert communities online to determine common usage, which can help you translate with more natural sounding words and expressions. Google algorithms now pick up normal English queries so it is possible to simply ask questions in the usual form and compare the responses received.

Caution: If you use these websites, you do so at your own risk. Some websites may charge fees to sign in or ask you to connect via applications such as Google or Facebook. Answers provided on them may be incorrect and should be confirmed by reliable sources.

Stack Exchange

This is one of the two top websites that provides answers to language questions. Expert answers are plentiful and the best answers are usually highlighted by the site. The Stack Exchange, a network of expert communities, includes an English language and usage site. English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site available at:

Word Reference

Word is the other top site to find answers to language questions. For example, you can type a question in your browser, such as “What is the difference between forbidden and prohibited?” The answers provided on Word Reference are usually very good and a best answer is generally picked by the site. In this case: “I see ‘prohibited’ more on public signs. The words are synonyms and both are common in speech.” (Word Reference, accessed on September 4, 2017)

Yahoo Answers

Yahoo Answers also provides a best answer among all the contributions received. The answer below is to the question “What is the difference between forbidden and prohibited?”
Best Answer: “There really isn't one. According to, forbidden means refuse to allow (something) or order (someone) not to do something. Prohibited means formally forbid (something) by law, rule, or other authority. So I guess the main difference is that forbidden could by definition be used by anyone whereas prohibited is usually used in the law or court.” (Yahoo Answers, accessed on September 4, 2017)


Quora, based in Mountain View, California, is a site aimed at gaining and sharing knowledge, which also has a French site at It is a platform to ask questions and read the contributions of collaborators who may supply quality answers. You can compare the answers received for the question “What is the difference between forbidden and prohibited?” with the answers received on the other websites listed above. 

Proz is an international association of translators that may be a useful reference. Answers are rated by a panel. The answers may not be complete, or exactly what you are looking for, but they may give you hints to put you on the right track. Here is a sample question: “How do you translate opposable?”


Difference specializes in questions such as “What is the difference between authorization and approval?”  Various forums are also available with discussions on particular cases.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely the author’s.

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