How should we refer to this action that involves the bottle, the cap and the person?

Is she "opening the bottle" or "opening the cap"?

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  • "Open the cap" is fine, as is "open the lid" and "open the door". "Open the bottle" is fine, as is "open the box" and "open the building". – Ben Dec 20 '18 at 11:55
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    Complete disambiguation: you "uncap the bottle". ;) – MichaelK Dec 20 '18 at 12:31
  • @Ben Open the building? I've never heard of it. – insanity Dec 20 '18 at 13:16
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    @insanity re "open the building"... maybe something like this: "The office is locked until 6am, so if you want to start earlier than that you'll need to call security to open the building for you." – Spudley Jan 2 '19 at 10:48

She is opening the bottle by unscrewing the cap or removing the cap.

Edit based on feedback from commeonts: if you say opening the cap people will understand what you mean. It might also be a regional idiom in some places.

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    This was my thought exactly. Twisting the cap would also work. – J.R. Dec 19 '18 at 15:56
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    @J.R. Mostly agree, though "unscrewing" has the benefit of indicating that the bottle is being opened, while cases of "twisting" might require further context. I'm just imagining if someone "twisted" a cap and then threw a bottle. – Harris Dec 19 '18 at 19:44
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    @Harris - Mostly agree, although twist-off cap is pretty standard terminology, I believe. – J.R. Dec 19 '18 at 21:25
  • Reminds me of this old commercial – Maiaux Dec 19 '18 at 22:44
  • @J.R. - living in NZ I've never heard the term twist-off cap in use. =} – tink Dec 20 '18 at 1:01

I would say technically open the cap is the correct term, however in my experience personally, and most people say "open the bottle". In actuality opening a bottle would probably entail cutting it in half or something, but people don't actually mean that.

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    I don't agree that it's correct at all. A cap has no opening and therefore cannot be opened. – shadowtalker Dec 19 '18 at 15:48
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    I don't think "opening a cap" makes any sense in conversational English. – eques Dec 19 '18 at 16:16
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    It does raise the interesting question, though, why "open the door" is correct. What's the difference between a cap blocking the entrance to the bottle and a door blocking the entrance to a room? As best I can tell, "door" in that phrase actually refers to the doorway, not the physical door installed in the doorway. – chepner Dec 19 '18 at 17:07
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    @chepner No I’m saying that the correct preposition to use is whichever one everyone uses. Prepositions in English are difficult because you can’t reason them out sometimes. You have to memorize a lot of them. For example a squeeze bottle cap is pushed in or pulled out, but it can be open/closed. We can try to make a rule, but there will be lots of exceptions, which I think would be more confusing than just memorizing the correct phrasing. – ColleenV Dec 19 '18 at 17:31
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    Those aren't prepositions here; they are adverbs of state. Just because some word choices are all but arbitrary doesn't mean there is never some underlying logic. – chepner Dec 19 '18 at 17:38

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