Dispute on the actual definition of availible

I said that if a public toilet is engaged it is still available. I used the example of a hotel opening a new block of toilets, that were available for the next few months until the main toilets are fixed. Even if all the toilets were engaged, they would still be available for the next few months. My friend disagreed. Who is actually correct.

If you can pee in it without getting punched in the face, it’s available.

Like most questions about usage, this can’t be answered in the abstract. It needs context.

How are you using “available”? Is the context is the number of toilets that are potentially usable by the public? Is the context the number of toilets immediately usable by public? Is the context something else entirely?

As soon as you define and narrow your context for saying available, its degree of correctness should become obvious.

Yep. This is one of those “Yes and No” answers.

The restrooms are available for use…except for this one which is not available because someone’s in it at the moment.

While someone is using any particular toilet, it’s obviously available to the person who’s using it.

They are in service, but not *available *at the moment because they are all engaged. When the main toilets are fixed, these will no longer be in service.

Your friend is correct. Pay up.

OP, did you join just to ask this question?! I agree with the previous poster. If it’s currently in use, it is not currently available.

But yes OP is correct, its possible to say “available” to mean something different.

Note that the door of the toilet says “engaged”. The word “Engaged” means “serviceable but currently in use”, while “out of service” “under repair” , etc, means “Don’t hold it in waiting for this one !”.

Another way of looking at this is to remember that English collapses the distinction between the present instant and the present continuous which other, better-thought-out languages preserve. “I am at my desk” can mean that I am at my desk at this instant, but “I am at my desk during normal office hours” doesn’t preclude the possibility that I might leave it from time to time to go and verify for some pedant how many of the toilet cubicles down the corridor are currently occupied.

“Toilets are available down the corridor” is an example of the present continuous; there are eight toilets down the corridor of which the public may avail. If a member of the public is currently availing himself of one of them, that just underlines that it is (present continuous) available, though it is not (present instant) available to a different member of the public.

Or to put it another way, it depends whether you want to go NOW.

The toilets are available to the general public all of the time, however if they are all currently engaged then none of them are available to you right now.

On another related matter, although the toilets are engaged this does not mean they have made a promise to marry in the future, nor does it mean you should hang up and ring back later.

Shoulda gone before you left the house.

“Are these toilets available” is one of those ambiguous questions that can have multiple correct answers. It’s like asking someone, “Can I eat this food?” The answer is “yes”, in that if you have a functioning digestive system you physically can. It’s also “yes” if you’re asking whether the food is generally edible, or is safe to eat in its current condition. But it’s “no” if you’re asking permission to eat my lunch.

The ambiguity of such phrases in the English language has led to many sitcom plot lines for decades, and will do so for decades more.

If we go with a basic, context-free definition of “available” - being able to avail oneself of it, or being able to give it away - then the toilet can’t technically be available to the current or any other user. “No dice on the deuce device,” so to speak. Although, non-native speaker here, so feel free to school me on this argument :rolleyes:

(A definition that, admittedly, focus more on the stem of the word itself, and less on common usage, although i’d think that there is hardly much meaningful difference between both.)

You’re making a basic mistake. Dictionaries do give a variety of definitions. But they are there so that you can try them in your sentence to see if they fit. The definitions are context free but the applications aren’t. The OP’s sentence was an application. Your attempt at a definition doesn’t work in it. Heck, neither does the definition “not romantically or sexually involved with anyone”.

In the larger sense, I can’t find any dictionary that reports that as a definition for available. “Being able to give it away” can maybe have some specialized context - “In this culture a bride must be a virgin, so Jane, being a virgin, was available to be a bride” - but that’s fairly tortured and would qualify under other more readily available definitions, like #3. (Yes, I see what I did there.)

I suspect you made that up. If I’m wrong, show your cite. Once you make up definitions, any word can mean anything and communication stops.

Could you make a reservation for the toilets?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWTMa76BzH0

Whoever clearly specified the time frame for which the word “available” applied.

You are quite right - I went with a gut instinct, and actually looking up the word (word choice - To avail oneself of an opportunity - English Language & Usage Stack Exchange) shows that it is more related to the idea of “being of value” than “give-away-able”. Consider me schooled :slight_smile:

Language question: Is the use of “engaged” in this sentence a British-English thing? It’s perfectly understandable to my American ears, but a bit unusual.

The term is used in the Beatles You Won’t See Me: “When I call you up, your line’s engaged…” This usage (with respect to a phone line) is definitely not used in the US.