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When I talk about many people, like community, what should I use?

  • A large community
  • A huge community
  • A big community

In my native language (German), we use just one word for that: groß. What is the difference in English?

  • In German there is also riesig. Google Translate uses that to translate huge. – MetaEd Jan 23 '13 at 23:22
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Per this NGram, large is far more common overall than big and huge put together, so in any context where you're not sure which word to use, treat large as the default.

Also note that parents normally introduce their children to big before large (probably because it seems phonetically simpler and more distinctive). So in later life people may see big as slightly childish/informal, where large appears more "grown-up"/formal.

I suggest avoiding huge unless you really want to emphasise abnormally large. But as @barbara says, there are many alternatives in that case (enormous, gigantic, vast etc.). It's also worth noting that in casual speech, people often use "quirky/unusual" alternatives such as humungous, ginormous, thumping. It's best to avoid those unless you're in company where you notice others doing it.


The only "rule" I can think of to help decide when it's better to choose big over large is that big becomes more likely in contexts which are more metaphorical (as opposed to "literal", when you're talking about the physical size of something).

Thus, there's nothing to choose between a big man and a large man, because that's simply the literal sense. But in...

That was big of him (he did something noble/generous).
It was a big disappointment (it was very disappointing).
He's just bigging himself up (he's trying to make himself appear more important than he really is).

... large would never be used. With OP's specific noun community, the metaphoric "stretch" isn't actually very great (large/big!), and there's really nothing to choose between large and big.

Of course, there will be plenty of exceptions to my above "rule" (as in the relatively recent BrE slang giving it large, being noisily aggressive). So just think of it as a "slight tendency".

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8

I think all of the examples sound like good English, although the quantity expressed is slightly different.

A large community [of people] and a big community [of people] both seem to reflect a good sized quantity, while a huge community seems to imply that it is much larger when compared to other sizes.

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In this context, I don't believe there is a big (sic) difference except that large community is probably the most commonly used, and huge community the least commonly — but it doesn't sound odd. Huge is a little informal, so you probably wouldn't hear it used in the news or read it in formal publications too often.

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  • 3
    Informal, and meaning bigger than big or large. – SF. Jan 23 '13 at 21:18
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If you change the noun from "community" to "group", then "big group" and "large group" mean (to me) the same thing, although "large" is a bit more formal. A "huge group" would imply something larger than a "large group". (To get even larger, there are "enormous" and "gigantic", though those terms are used more often to describe objects rather than collections of things or beings.)

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