Hello! This week on Ask a Teacher, we answer a question from La Mancha, Spain.
Hello VOA. I was wondering about the difference between stand and stay… Are they synonyms?
Felix, in Spain.
Thank you for asking us this question. The two words do seem to be similar, but there is an important difference between them.
Let us begin with the verb, “stand.” For a human, it means to be in an upright position with your weight on your feet. When you stand, you do not move much. Here is an example.
The employee’s feet hurt because she was standing most of the day.
We can use “stand” for non-living as well as living things.
The streetlight stands beside the path to my house.
Another meaning of “stand’ is to move from a sitting position to a standing position.
Please stand to sing the national anthem.
There are many other uses of “stand” with prepositions or as a noun, but we will not worry about them here.
Compare “stand” now with the verb “stay.”
To “stay” means to continue to be in the same place for a period of time. You could use “remain” in the same way as “stay” in many cases. “Stay” and “remain” both describe a living thing that has a choice of moving to another location. For example,
We have to stay at home to work to avoid infection.
The soccer player stayed off the field for the whole game.
We also can use “stay” to talk about continuing in a state or condition, or position.
Reyna and Alex stayed friends for years after they left school.
I could not stay awake during the math lecture today.
You can also use “stay” to talk about living in a place as a guest for a short period.
Mahmoud stayed at the Ramses Hotel for a month while he worked in Cairo.
When to use ‘stay’ or ‘stand’
When you are trying to decide whether to use “stay” or “stand,” please ask yourself: Can the subject change its location? Will the verb “remain” work?
Here is a statement you can use to test our method:
A fruit tree _______ beside the school wall.
We know that a tree cannot move by itself, and it does not choose to remain by the wall. So, we should use “stands” in that statement.
What question do you have about American English? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
And that’s Ask a Teacher.
I’m Jill Robbins.
Dr. Jill Robbins wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.
Practice using stay and stand
Write your answers in the comments or on paper.
Complete these sentences using a form of “stay” or “stand.”
1. The teacher was ___________ next to the board when I came in.
2. All the students __________ to say, “Good Morning!”
3. The teacher asked a student to __________ at the front and give a book report.
4. Another student was not prepared, so he had to ________ after class to talk with the teacher.
5. The rest of the class is ___________ outside at the bus stop.
Download this practice as a pdf
Words in This Story
upright – adj. positioned to be straight up or vertical
national anthem – n. a song that praises a particular country and that is officially accepted as the country's song
Do you have a question for the teacher? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.