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As Cambridge Dictionary says, "proper" means: "real, satisfactory, suitable, or correct". Also, it is said that, "suitable" means: "acceptable or right for someone or something". An finally, "appropriate" means: "suitable or right for a particular situation or occasion".

As you see, they have lots of semantic overlaps which makes a person who lacks the requisite intuition fall into doubt when it comes to use each case. This is why I decided to provide you with some examples to discover how and when to use each case. I would appreciate it if you kindly let me know about the wrong choices for each case. Here are my examples:

  1. Such movies are not ........... for children.

a. suitable
b. appropriate
c. proper

  1. Two out of five people lack a .......... job in that country.

a. suitable
b. appropriate
c. proper

  1. Such small studios are ............ for young couples who have no children.

a. suitable
b. appropriate
c. proper

  1. I can't come to the ceremony tomorrow! I don't have any .............. clothes.

a. suitable
b. appropriate
c. proper

  1. It is not a/an .............. time to ask her about this matter.

a. suitable
b. appropriate
c. proper

  1. We will take .......... actions when it comes to.

a. suitable
b. appropriate
c. proper

  1. They dont consider him a/an ............. husband for their daughter.

a. suitable
b. appropriate
c. proper

Please note that, to me as a non native, all choicea work for all cases above.

I have already visited the similar thread on the forum.

Some useful links:

https://forum.wordreference.com/threads/fitting-suitable-appropiate-proper.2313993/

https://hinative.com/en-US/questions/3204687

https://www.englishforums.com/English/SuitableProperAppropriate/bbcnwp/post.htm

https://www.italki.com/question/191255

https://www.usingenglish.com/forum/threads/96774-what-is-difference-between-approperiate-and-proper

http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/grammar/learnit/learnitv108.shtml

https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-difference-between-proper-apt-and-appropriate

  • Where do those sentences come from? – Lambie Aug 6 at 15:33
  • Most of them are taken from various contexts and dictionaries with some slight changes in order to clear off the possible ambiguities @Lambie. – A-friend Aug 6 at 15:49
  • Well, I see some red flags but in general think this type of question is much too broad. – Lambie Aug 6 at 15:53
  • You are right @Lambie, but I think that this is the only possible way to obtain a slight intuition about these types of synonymous words. – A-friend Aug 6 at 16:55
1

The only one of the seven examples where I would use "proper" is

  1. Two out of five people lack a proper job in that country.

For the others, your dictionary definitions state that "appropriate" applies to a "particular situation or occasion".

So I would use "suitable" in 1, 3, 4, and 7.

I would use "appropriate" in 5 and 6.

The anomaly is 4, and perhaps the usage is a matter of opinion too.

  • Thank you @Weather Vane, but I'm quite confident that for #1 all choices would work (as I encountered many times in many occasions). Regarding #2&3 I'm sure thay at least both 'proper' and 'suitable' work. Also, for #4 I have seen many cases including either 'appropriate' or 'suitable'. – A-friend Aug 6 at 15:30
  • 1
    As I wrote, some of the usage is a matter of opinion, and also depends on context such as whether the speaker is making a "value judgement", say when "proper" might be used by a speaker from one country, but not from another. As for #2 in the usual context, one talks about having a "proper job" (i.e. an actual job, with pay etc). As for #4, that's what I wrote so you don't disagree. In #3 "proper" would only be used by someone from a culture that has very strict traditions of what type of accomodation should be inhabited. – Weather Vane Aug 6 at 15:38

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