the largest/biggest organ on our body

Discussion in 'English Only' started by quietdandelion, Oct 26, 2007.

  1. quietdandelion

    quietdandelion Banned

    In science class, we learned that the skin is the biggest organ on our bodies.
    In science class, we were taught that skin is the largest organ in our bodies.

    Do both of the above two versions sound right? If neither, how would you word it? Thanks.
  2. The Scrivener Banned

    On the "naughty step".
    England. English
    Dear Dandelion,

    I would choose "largest".
  3. quietdandelion

    quietdandelion Banned

    Thanks, Scrivener, for your reply.
    But could you explain in a few words the reason? I'm confused by the two words, large and big.
  4. Vinlander Senior Member

    Canada, American English (mostly)
    This is an interesting question. One definitely would say largest. The feeling (and it is a feeling) I have is because skin is extensive. One could say that the lungs are the biggest organ (I am guessing on the reality of this, but let's assume that it is) because it is a singularity(?). Large is usually slightly more formal (slightly), but that isn't the reason it applies here.

    Having said that biggest would not be a real error, just not the best term.

  5. quietdandelion

    quietdandelion Banned

    Thanks, Vinlander, for your helpful reply.
    It seems to me there are subtle differences between the two words, but I can't utter them.
    Just to test my gut feeling, are the following right?
    A big apple/boy/guy/car/ox/dog/street/building
    A large scale/lake/building/project/pool/screen
  6. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    car - I would use either of big or large;
    building - the use of either one wouldn't make me take notice but I would probably use "large" (you've used "building" in both of your examples, so you must feel that way, too!).:)
    screen - it would depend on what kind of "screen". If it's to view videos or movies on, I would use "large" although "the big screen" is an idiom coined by Hollywood many years ago.
    project - I would use either
    street - I would use "large"

    I'm not sure what you mean by a large "scale"...
  7. quietdandelion

    quietdandelion Banned

    Thanks, Dimcl, for the clear reply.
    I mean a large scale of something such as project/census/activities.
    As a small aside, could you write down some rules of thumb based on your gut feeling?
  8. Fenoxielo Member

    United States
    United States - English
    Typically, "big" tends to sound a little juvenile, at least to me. "Large" seems much more sophisticated and so more appropriate in this example. "Big" is something a 5-year-old would say, but probably not "large."
  9. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    There are specific phrases that use either "big" or "large" by convention, but the two words are generally synonymous. (The same can be said of "little" and "small".)

    I think of "big" as the ordinary word used with ordinary physical things such as an apple, a boy/guy, a car, an ox, a dog, an office, a house, a lake, a project, a pool, a screen. "Large" is more often used for abstractions like "scale" and in legal or scientific language or whenever we want to emphasize that we are talking about sheer size.

    A child may be frightened by a big dog (ordinary life), but a Great Dane is a large breed of dog (biology or formal dog show language).

    A person can have a big lake on his or her property, but the government builds large lakes. The Great Lakes and the Great Salt Lake are very big lakes, larger than our government's lakes.

    "Big" sounds better in front of a noun; "large" is preferred when by itself. Big lakes are lakes that are large.
  10. nichec

    nichec Senior Member

    This is a great post :thumbsup:

    And QD, if you look "big" or "large" up in the WR dictionary, you will find many threads dealing with the same question.
  11. nichec

    nichec Senior Member


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