15

I don't know which to choose, "new" or "strange" to complete the following sentence.

I'm _____ to this neighbourhood.

A correct answer seems to be "new", but why is "strange" wrong?

  • I forgot to tell you that a sentence "I'm not familiar with this neighbourhood" has also been given with this fill-in-the-blank question requiring "Select the best answer to complete the sentence which has the same meaning as "I'm not familiar with this neighbourhood." " – user88181 Jan 16 at 9:50
  • 2
    You should edit your question to include that information, not leave it in a comment. – ColleenV Jan 16 at 12:03
30

I'm _____ to this neighbourhood.

Because the sentence has been constructed for you, you should be able to see that it describes your relationship to the neighbourhood, not the other way around.

The option "strange" is not correct because "strange" in the context of being somewhere new means "unusual" or "odd" because of your own unfamiliarity with it. Saying "I'm strange to this neighbourhood" would mean that it is you who is strange, not the neighbourhood. The word "neighbourhood" describes an area, and although it is characterised by having people live there and is sometimes used idiomatically to refer to a community of people, technically it does not mean the people itself (otherwise you would never hear terms such as "an abandoned neighbourhood"). That would be the "community". A community could find you strange, but I don't feel it is technically correct to say that a geographical area finds you strange.

You could say:

This neighbourhood is strange to me.

Because the sentence has been reversed it shows that the neighbourhood seems strange to you because you are unfamiliar with it.

You could also say:

I'm a stranger to this neighbourhood.

or

I'm unfamiliar with this neighbourhood.

The answer to your 'fill-in-the-blank' question though has to be:

I'm new to this neighbourhood.

  • 14
    Agreed that's the answer the test is looking for, but I hate tests that label these sorts of sentences as "correct" or "incorrect" without additional context. Using "neighborhood" to refer to people is quite normal ("The whole neighborhood came to my housewarming party," etc.) "I'm strange to this neighborhood" is an unusual thing to say, and it could be an incorrect way of expressing an idea, but it's grammatically correct and semantically sensible as written. It is not wrong (again, barring additional context), it's simply not what the test was looking for. – GrandOpener Jan 15 at 20:23
  • 2
    Given that multiple dictionaries list this usage as proper and examples of "strange to the ..." that make sense in this context have been provided, I'm not sure how this can be considered a correct answer. – JimmyJames Jan 16 at 17:18
  • @JimmyJames link me to a credible example of "strange to the neighbourhood". Not just "strange to....." anything else. – Astralbee Jan 16 at 21:43
  • Another example from 2017: "... when a van that was strange to the neighborhood was seen cruising around after midnight" – JimmyJames Jan 17 at 14:50
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; most of this conversation has been moved to chat. – ColleenV Jan 17 at 14:57
15

Two different meanings

"I'm new to this neighbourhood" means that you recently arrived there.

"I'm strange to this neighbourhood" means that you are strange, odd, peculiar, curious, or unusual in the opinions of people in the neighbourhood. At least it means that you are different than the usual person in the neighbourhood.

You could say I'm a stranger to this neighbourhood, which means people in the neighbourhood don't know you yet, or don't trust you yet, or they don't consider you one of their own.

  • 12
    @Astralbee I think you are incorrect that neighborhood never refers to the people that live in it. If I say “the neighborhood unanimously rejected planting cactus on the playground” few AmE speakers would mark that as unusual. A neighborhood is just a community that is defined by location. – ColleenV Jan 15 at 14:32
  • 3
    @ColleenV You might well be right about your example, but I would say it is idiomatic. Take some other phrases with "neighbourhood" in them and try substituting other words that describe groups of people. For example "You are not welcome in this neighbourhood". How can you be in people? That's rhetorical, don't actually answer that. ;) What it means, idiomatically is that you are not welcome by the people in this neighbourhood – Astralbee Jan 15 at 14:37
  • 6
    @Astralbee Yes, in English the same word can mean different things in different contexts. One particular instance of a word being unidiomatic doesn’t make that usage incorrect in all other instances. – ColleenV Jan 15 at 16:14
  • 4
    @Astralbee It makes perfect sense to me. Likewise, something like "America's favourite soap" makes perfect sense: America-the-place obviously doesn't care about soap so we naturally understand the phrase to mean "The favourite soap of people living in America". Similarly, your-neighbourhood-the-place obviously doesn't have opinions about you, it's natural to understand it as "I am strange to the people living in my neighbourhood." – David Richerby Jan 15 at 17:51
  • 2
    @Astralbee Note that the same restrictions apply to the alternative you supplied in "community." It is perfectly sensible to write "You are not welcome in this community." Dictionary.com (and I would assume most dictionaries) have separate definitions for neighborhood, one specifically mentioning location and one specifically mentioning the people. The geography location tends to come first, but both of them are there. – GrandOpener Jan 15 at 20:29
7

It is not incorrect but it's pretty uncommon and a lot of native speakers would be somewhat confused by this usage. It's something you would typically only find in print written at a college or above reading level. The form of 'strange' is this:

Merriam-Webster

strange 1.b not native to or naturally belonging in a place : of external origin, kind, or character

'The Free Dictionary' includes a usage example:

strange 1.b Not of one's own or a particular locality, environment, or kind; not native: came across a flower that was strange to the region.

An example of this usage can be found in this transcript from a US congressional hearing:

While the various species might or might not be strange to the region, it was certainly exceedingly strange to find them appearing in very large populations during the first three months of the year, ...

At oxforddictionaries.com It is described as archaic. Based on comments, this is still understood in Britain to be normal usage so I'm not sure why it is described that way.

‘I am strange to the work’

The option 'new' in this sentence is a very common usage which is why it's selected. It's the better answer but 'strange' isn't really incorrect here.

  • 3
    As a native British speaker, "a flower that was strange to the region" doesn't seem at all archaic to me. I'd just parse it as "It's strange to find that flower there", which is pretty much exactly what it means. – David Richerby Jan 15 at 22:57
  • @DavidRicherby it's a really good illustration of JJ's point, too. It's possible to substitute "alien" or "unusual" for "strange" to emphasize either nuance. – Will Crawford Jan 16 at 16:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.