I know this has been addressed before, but I don’t think anyone has clarified that this is a real, actual problem—not just a hypothetical one—at English.SE and that some kind of solution is needed if the search functionality is to do its job in a useful way.

Hey guess what? English.SE is necessarily an exception to the need to filter stop words. The stop words are quite frequently the topic of discussion, because language itself is the topic of discussion. If we can't search for stop words, the search becomes useless for finding certain questions.

What search terms would I use to find a question called “When should I use ‘is’ and when should I use ‘are’?”? Even if I search for the exact title of the question there are no results! What excuse is there for that?

How about “What does the phrase ‘on to’ mean?”? When I search for this question using the exact title, I get a pageful of results, but none which match exactly the query I presented.

And if you didn’t already know the titles of the following questions, what reasonable search terms would you enter to find them?

Seriously, how would someone who is looking for these questions find them using the search feature? This is not just a small handful of questions where the problem can be ignored. These kinds of questions permeate the site. Due to the stop words limitation, the search functionality of the site is useless for finding these questions. Useless!

Might I suggest that a reasonable compromise would be to index stop words if the words themselves are being discussed rather than used? (See Use-mention distinction on Wikipedia for an explanation of the difference between using a word and mentioning it). You can tell if a word is being mentioned if it is in quotation marks or if it is italicized. Maybe there is some kind of workaround using tags—we can make tags for each stop word and add the appropriate tags to questions that are about stop words.

But please, you can’t just ignore this problem and reject the request. We all know that the search feature is essential to site usability, so let’s try to make it actually usable for us at English.SE.

I humbly request that the previous rejections of similar requests be reconsidered.

  • How will it help you to take them out of the stopwords? Instead of getting no results, you'll get every page on the site for results.
    – Rosinante
    Aug 28, 2010 at 19:10
  • 3
    @Rosinante If the questions that are about stop words are ranked higher, then they will appear first in the list of results.
    – nohat
    Aug 28, 2010 at 19:21
  • 2
    Google fails too; searching for your examples returns unrelated results :S Aug 28, 2010 at 20:20
  • Isn't this [status-completed], like this question? Both the searches you have find the right questions now.
    – Laurel
    Nov 10, 2017 at 4:20

1 Answer 1


You can already use Google to achieve your goal -- and the technology we're using for search is incapable of achieving your goal.

Note that google searches are already on your search page ; just type in the google box and press enter or click the "Google" button with your mouse.

Search with Google

To get to this page

  1. enter nothing in the search box and press enter

  2. click the see our search tips! link in the sidebar of every search result

    see our search tips

  3. enter the /search URL fragment in your address bar

Additionally, for searches with no results, click the provided alternately, try your search in Google link

try your search in Google


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