What’s the Difference Between Shade and Shadow?

Posted on November 27, 2018

By Emily Stallard, Owner at Orchid English


Are you going away for some winter sun this year? Perhaps skiing or even further away to a warm climate for a few weeks? When I can, I love going somewhere hot for a holiday in the middle of winter. And then I say… “It’s so hot in the sun! Let’s find some…” which? What’s the difference between shade and shadow?


What’s the difference between shade and shadow? They are very similar but it can sound unnatural if you use one in place of the other.


Shadow is a particular shadow. We have our own shadows in the shape of ourselves, as do buildings and trees.


Shade is a more general word. When we look for shade we don’t care what makes the shade. We are just looking for a place out of the sun.


As if often the case in English, one is countable (shadow) and the other is uncountable (shade).


Now I think about it, consider that Americans call sunglasses “shades”, it’s because they create a general shade for everything that you see. Learn more about interesting American and British language differences here.


Something I hear a lot in the summer is people learning English saying “let’s find some shadow”. But this sounds unnatural because it sounds like they are looking for a particular shadow. Much more natural to say “let’s find some shade”.


There is some crossover because you could say “Let’s find some shade. How about the shadow of that tree?”


The difference between shade and shadow is interesting in English because many other languages don’t differentiate between the two concepts. Does yours?



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