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Please check the wording below.

  1. After breaking his leg, he staggered to his feet again and started again.
  2. After going broke, he staggered to his feet again and started a new business.

Are they correct?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Yes, both of your sentences are correct. "Stagger" can be used both in a literal sense (having trouble walking) and in a metaphorical sense (struggling to grow a new business).

Both of your sentences are clear in their meaning, but I think in order to be 100% correct, you need make some tweaks. "Stagger" means most commonly (in my personal experience) "to walk or cause to walk unsteadily as if about to fall". It has a lot of nuances in its meaning, but for the most part, someone who is staggering is already standing up and walking (though not well).

For that reason, I would be more likely to say:

After breaking his leg, he struggled to his feet and staggered home.

Staggering is more what he would do after he managed to get himself standing.

After going broke, he struggled to get back on his feet. He started a new business that staggered forward.

n.b.: Be careful in the second sentence: "staggering" can be an adjective, meaning "causing great astonishment, amazement, or dismay; overwhelming". Starting a "staggering new business" probably means that the business is unexpectedly doing very well, not that it is struggling. You want to be sure to include a word like "forward" that shows movement, like the business is going forward on shaky legs.

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Thank you very much for your detailed answer. –  GATA Feb 17 at 18:35
1  
No problem - hope it helps. –  abby hairboat Feb 17 at 18:38

Stagger also means To arrange in a zig-zag pattern. For instance:

He staggered the chairs so no one's view was blocked.

This definition is most likely where we get the usage you were looking for. (e.g. walking unsteadily in a zip-zag pattern.)

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The earliest recorded instance of “stagger” meaning “arrange in a zig-zag pattern” is 1856, after hundreds of years of meaning “sway/totter/reel”. –  Tyler James Young Feb 17 at 20:30
    
I remember an old Dennis the Menace comic where his parents were hanging pictures in the stairway (in a zig-zag pattern) and Dennis answered the phone and said his mom couldn't answer because she was helping her dad stagger up the stairs. –  Steve H. Feb 17 at 22:29

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