junk vs trash vs garbage

cmkitty

Member
chinese
I learned from this forum, garbage and trash are interchangebale, but garbage refers to wet and sticky things more while trash refers to waste paper and dry items more. but how about junk, is it interchangebale with garbage and trash? Can I say " the boy made a gift for his mom out of junk/ trash/garbage?" Thanks a lot!
 
  • cyberpedant

    Senior Member
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    I find "junk" and "trash" closer in meaning than "garbage" is to either of them. "Junk" is more likely to be valuable to someone--for example, we purchase used car parts from "junk yards." "Garbage" is far less likely to have value.
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    I do distinguish between trash and garbage. To me, "junk" is larger items, often made of metal and often salvageable, such as furniture or cars.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    In AE, "junk" can have a variety of meanings, none of them interchangeable with trash (stuff that's unusable and is to be discarded) or garbage (often, trash that contains food scraps).

    Junk might be, as RM1 says, something that one person has discarded ("junked") but someone else can use. It can mean just things, not connected with discarding ("I moved out in a hurry and left some junk behind"). And it's also a slang term for male genitalia (so be careful how you use it). Context is everything. ;)
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    In BE, the only one which would fit the sentence is "junk", which is used to mean anything which its previous owner has thrown away or no longer has a use for. We don't tend to use "trash" much, and "garbage" might include waste food, and thus wouldn't be suitable for making presents out of.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    In BE junk is just a few steps below antique works of art. Today's junk is tomorrow's second-hand item and next week's priceless vintage, and you buy it from a junk shop.

    Trash, as well as being a synonym for garbage, (American I think?) is metaphorical for anything worthless, as in "Who steals my purse steals trash" (Iago in Othello) or "Don't talk such trash".
     

    jokaec

    Senior Member
    Chinese - Hong Kong
    This car is “a piece of garbage” or “a piece of junk” or “ a piece of trash”. Since I bought it, it often broke down.

    Are they all correct? If so, which one is the best? Thank you.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    This car is “a piece of garbage” or “a piece of junk” or “ a piece of trash”. Since I bought it, it often broke down.

    Are they all correct? If so, which one is the best? Thank you.
    I wouldn't buy any of them. :D

    Seriously: In the U.S., vehicles that no longer can run reliably are taken to a "junk yard," so I think we're more likely to use that metaphor.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Garbage and trash are interchangeable ...
    I do distinguish between trash and garbage...
    I think this is a regional difference. RM1(SS) is from the Northeast U.S. as I am, Oeco is from the upper Midwest. I also consider them different. In fact, I once lived in an eastern Massachusetts town that picked up residential garbage on a weekly basis, but not trash. They got quite upset if they found trash mixed in with one's garbage. The difference was written into local laws and was well understood by everyone.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I see them differently but with overlap so they aren't necessarily completely different.

    In my mind garbage potentially overlaps with trash and trash potentially overlaps with junk but garbage doesn't overlap with junk.

    Banana peels would never be junk and a broken down radio would never be garbage.
    But you could put garbage in a trash can and junk in a trash can.

    There are garbage cans and trash cans but no junk cans. Trash is things that are expected to be thrown away (like packaging) while junk is stuff that was made for long term use but has outlived its usefulness.
     

    Erebos12345

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    This car is “a piece of garbage” or “a piece of junk” or “ a piece of trash”. Since I bought it, it often broke down.

    Are they all correct? If so, which one is the best? Thank you.
    For the context you described, personally...

    Piece of junk :thumbsup:
    Piece of garbage [meh]
    Piece of trash :(

    A car is too big to be called a piece of trash, I feel.
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    Garbage and trash are interchangeable ...
    I do distinguish between trash and garbage...
    I think this is a regional difference. RM1(SS) is from the Northeast U.S. as I am, Oeco is from the upper Midwest.
    Actually, I'm from the Midwest, too -- the first time I was ever east of Detroit was when I was 28 and the Navy sent me here. And the people at work seem to say "garbage" only -- not "trash".
     

    jokaec

    Senior Member
    Chinese - Hong Kong
    Thank you all.! I will use "a piece of junk" in public occasions and "a piece of shit" in private occasions. Just kidding!
     

    jokaec

    Senior Member
    Chinese - Hong Kong
    Thank you were and kentix. Interesting, I thought "pile" is used for more than one thing.
     
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