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Given that a girl wants a private tutor, but she does not understand the difference between these two sentences:

I hope you can be my private tutor at night after my day school is over.
I hope you can act as my private tutor at night after my day school is over.

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If anything, act as is more formal. It is often used in describing situations wherein someone is taking on responsibilities: (Google any of these, with or without "his/her" between as and the following noun. Act as legal counsel. Act as guardian. Act as estate executor. )

The expression may be used to acknowledge that the actor has other roles/functions also, so that acting as someone will either mean the role is temporary or it is in addition to other duties. When my supervisor takes the day off at work, then one of my coworkers will act as section chief.

I have worked as a tutor in the past, and neither of these constructions sounds at all unusual. I would probably chose act as, but either phrasing is totally acceptable.

(West Coast American English. )

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    Good answer. While I would probably be startled if someone asked me to "act as my tutor", it would only be in surprise that they understood the usage of the term, especially if the person asking is in high school or college. :-) I am a Southern California native, where people tend to be more casual. On the East coast of the US, I would not be as surprised. Could be wrong about that part, though. Jan 6, 2015 at 20:16
  • @PurpleDiane - Yes - if it came from someone asking for English lessons, I would assume they crowd-sourced the internet to get the phrasing. :-) When I was a mathematics graduate student, though, my department gave clear guidance about when we could and could not act as tutors for students. (No accepting money to act as tutor for anyone currently in a class we were teaching, even if they were in some other teacher's section, etc....)
    – Adam
    Jan 6, 2015 at 20:23
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I hope you can be my private tutor at night after my day school is over.

She has some problems with some lesson and ask for expertise. Politely asking if the addressed person has time to offer, she wants her/him to be her tutor. This is the only possible meaning of the statement.

I hope you can act as my private tutor at night after my day school is over.

"Act" is firstly defined by dictionary as "a deed". In this meaning, she is asking for an assistant to help her with her lessons; the same meaning as above.

The other meaning for ask is "to play a role of". This way, since no context has been fed back, she may be asking for aid, or maybe she was asking for someone to show that they're being her tutor. You get what I mean?

Even there is another dominant meaning for act and that is "to behave immorally". Acting easily can be understood as pretending, too.

So many meanings for act that have positive and/or negative connotation and it's totally dependent on what the situation is. If it's the first sentence, it can be misunderstood, so I wouldn't recommend the second sentence for requesting. :)

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  • The word "act" is not used by itself in this example. The phrase "act as" is the relevant part of the sentence, and @Adam has the correct explanation. Jan 6, 2015 at 20:12
  • Also it would have been helpful to mention that the first definition is for the noun. Or to not mention it at all, because it is not relevant to the question—there is no doubt that "act (as)" is a verb in the example sentence. Jan 12, 2015 at 0:02
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"act as" my private tutor definitely sounds right as it is a term that relates with responsibility. Whereas, "be my" private tutor sounds inappropriate & casual.

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  • Welcome to ELL.SE! This answer of yours could have been a little bit more detailed. Small pieces of info are better to be comments. This page says why.
    – M.A.R.
    Jan 8, 2015 at 16:53

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