In use

Something is 'in use' if it's being used for its intended purpose

Today's story: Best flags
Explore more: Lesson #601
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In use

“In use.” This is a strange little expression. If something is “in use” that thing is being used, being employed, for its intended purpose.

Canada once had a flag. It was bright red with a Union Jack on the upper left-hand corner and a crest of some kind on the right-hand side. That flag is no longer in use. What does that mean? That flag is no longer being used—it’s not Canada’s flag anymore. You can find the design. You could probably buy one if you looked hard enough. You could fly it outside your own house, if you really wanted to. So the flag exists. But it’s not being used for what it was originally intended for. It doesn’t symbolize Canada anymore. The flag that is currently in use has a bright red maple leaf on it and is one of my favorite country flags.

So there are two flags—one is in use (the maple leaf), one is not in use anymore (the ugly old one with the crest).

Imagine you go to your local park, hoping to play tennis. You show up with your tennis partner and—ugh. All of the courts are in use. All the courts are being used. People are playing tennis on them—or, worse, Pickleball . The courts are in use; the courts are being used.

Tennis not your thing? Maybe you’re like JR and you like to swim. Nothing makes JR angry like showing up to the pool and finding the whole pool in use—for water aerobics or something else, so he can’t swim his laps.

If you’re on a long flight , you might need to get up to use the restroom. If you go to the door at the front, you might see a red marker on the door that says “in use.” That means someone is in there, using the restroom—you have to wait.

I told you a few weeks ago about the barns that are falling apart all through rural America. Farms used to be run by families with a few hundred acres each. Now, huge farming companies control tens of thousands of acres. It’s big business.

But nice old barns that used to hold small farm equipment, maybe a few animals—they’re no longer in use. But now farming is big business, the machines are bigger, it’s no longer a family enterprise with a couple of small machines in a barn. So the barns are no longer in use and they’re starting to fall apart .

See you next time!

That’s it for today, lesson 601 of Plain English. Coming up on Monday, another easier one. I’ll tell you all about minor league baseball. And you don’t have to be a sports fan to like this one. This is about the small towns and cities around America that have these low-level baseball leagues, and the journey that everyone is on to make it to the big leagues. It’s a big part of small-town, small-city American life, and you’ll get to learn about it on Monday. See you then.

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Story: Best flags