1. tonten
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    tonten Senior Member

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    Big versus Large

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by tonten, Oct 28, 2009.

    Apparently, I have just realized I have never really learned the right usages around these two words. I usually write what sounds right, but right now I'm stuck with this sentence.

    Asia is the largest continent in the world.
    Asia is the biggest continent in the world.

    Which one is correct, or are they both correct?
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    There isn't a rule about this. It's more about the idiomatic use. In this case, I would use "largest," but it varies from person to person.
     
  3. MrWrite
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    MrWrite Member

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    I don't think it really matters to be honest. I agree with thirdwind, I would use "Asia is the largest continent in the world.". That's just my thoughts though.
     
  4. tonten
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    tonten Senior Member

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    I only started questioning myself when for some reason I imagined an imaginary elementry school teacher slapping my hands with a ruler and saying, "largest, not big!" and never telling me why.
     
  5. dgraham
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    dgraham Senior Member

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    Generally, "large" is a bit more formal or polite than "big", is all I can think of.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ...there's no rigid rule for either, but those're what work best...
     
  7. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Always go w/what Maia said.

    Just out of curiosity, I googled each and got this:

    "largest continent" = 136,000 results

    "biggest continent" = 37,800 results
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Usage typically refers to an issue where a word is incorrect for a particular context, for example using there in a context in which their is correct.

    What you are dealing with in this case are words which are legitimate synonyms, but for which the connotations in particular contexts malke one a better word choice than the other. These are instances where you will never get the full story from a dictionary or a thesaurus. You have to be a reader, sensitive to which words are or are not typically used in a particular context, and how they shade the meaning of the sentence.

    That kind of attention to fine distinctions of meaning is part of what distinguishes a good writer from a great one. A large part.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you have to be a discerning reader...
     

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