Why does everyone quote Google?


Why does everyone quote Google? It’s a search engine, isn’t it? It’s not a dictionary. Why, you can put any old thing on the Internet and Google will spew it out but that doesn’t make it authentic, does it?


Alan, you’re right about doubtful ‘representativeness’ of Google’s output.

In the case when you (not you, but I, we, …) have nothing at all to judge about use of the word (situation that is quite usual for foreigners learning other language), it is often better-than-nothing.

It only (and mainly) depends on the interpretation - how to take Google statistics to make a conclusion / decision…


I think googling words and expressions can be a valuable way to get a quick sense of usage (how used, how often used, and even where used, etc.)

However, for this sort of search to have any value at all, you can’t simply look at the number of results Google spits out. You need to look at the results and try to judge how meaningful they really are. And, of course, you have to learn how to search “properly”. If you give Google insufficient input or haven’t yet learned how best to define your search, then the results can be extremely misleading.

I think Google can be an excellent tool. But Google is not God. :wink:


Google is the closest thing most people have to a language corpus, so Google and other search engines are the only way the average person can judge how common or uncommon some usage is. If Cambridge, Oxford, Longman or some of the American universities gave the public access to their own corpuses free, then we wouldn’t need to use Google. There is one site run by the University of Liverpool that uses various sorts of publications on the Internet (US and UK newspapers, for example), but it’s very slow and seems to limit people to one search a day.

As Amy says, one has to examine Google results for them to be of any value. I frequently find 100,000 examples of some strange word or expression, but when I look at the sites, I see that they are all in the Czech Republic, Slovakia or Bulgaria, and not in an English-speaking country.

Well, and I hesitate to be partisan but there is always bnc


Thanks, Alan. That’s useful. Now if we can only get one for world English and the English of various other countries.

Hi Alan,

Many thanks for posting this BNC link, I didn’t even know it exists until you mentioned it. BNC (an abbreviation which can easily be confused with NBC) is a brilliant tool.
Interestingly enough, when I run the phrase “you have done your part” through BNC, I get only one result. If I google the same phrase, I get more than 23,000 pages most of which are written by native English speakers…

Also, if I run the phrase “good to know” through BNC the query takes quite some time, while Google shows me a result within less than a second.[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEFL listening discussions: What will the student try to do with his next essay?[YSaerTTEW443543]

Hi Torsten,

I make no great claims for bnc or any other type of corpus for that matter. The point I was trying to make was it might be a good idea to break away for a bit from Googlemania and take a look at other sources. Apart from bnc I am sure there are plenty of others and I am also sure ironcally that Google will be able to show them!

From a language point of view if you are in search of language to use that comic expression as she is spoke or as Mister Micawber would be proud to hear me say, authentic English, it’s not a bad idea to have a look at:


All right it’s British media but at the very bottom there is a link called Worldwide Search, which should satisfy the most wordhungry searchers. And of course you can find the daily newspapers in the USA available online. And there is also a link on the page to World Press.

Just some thoughts