Can I use "stead" in the same context as

What would you do if you were in her shoes?

What would you do in her stead?

Or what's the best way to ask this question ?


  • 3
    Don't use stead in such contexts. It's at the very least "dated", if not "stilted", unless you're going to use the idiomatically well-established What would you do instead? (i.e. - as an alternative course of action, rather than if it were me, not her). Jun 7, 2017 at 15:18
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers has the right of it. 'In her shoes' is used to establish empathy. 'In her stead' is used when you are replacing her. For example, "She was out of town, so I watched her dog in her stead." Jun 7, 2017 at 18:15
  • @Tofystedeth: I think you've nailed the key semantic difference there. Holly Golightly wouldn't have got far with Try being me. Walk a mile in my stead - it's about empathy, not replacement. Jun 7, 2017 at 18:23

3 Answers 3


"In her shoes" is a relatively modern idiom, and can mean imagining yourself in her position, or were her, putting yourself completely in that situation. Sometimes people use it to mean imagining that you yourself would be in the same situation, but still yourself, and sometimes they mean to imagine yourself actually as the person.

"In her stead", in the way you have used it, is stilted, feels slightly archaic, and has different emotional overtones, but the expression gets used sometimes in slightly different ways where it seems fancy, but not weird. "She couldn't make it, so I'll be standing in her stead" is equivalent to "she couldn't make it, so I'll be standing in for her". The latter would be more usual, but the first seems gently archaic and poetic. You could not use "in her shoes" in that case.


In your example

What would you do if you were in her shoes?


What would you do if you were she?

However, your use of "stead" is not quite right

What would you do in her stead?

which you might mean as

What would you do (if you were) her instead?
what would you do if you were in her place

which is different than

If you do well, it will keep you in good stead.
if you do well, it will keep you in a favorable light.

  • 1
    The word "stead" means "locality, place", so "in her stead" means "in her place". This expression is now rare, but is not incorrect. Nowadays we meet the word "stead" as parts of other words and expressions such as "homestead", "bedstead", and of course "instead of" (in the stead of).
    – David42
    Jun 7, 2017 at 18:29

"In her stead" is usually only used today in the sense of doing a job or taking a responsibility that might otherwise belong to somebody else, while "in her shoes" is talking about having the same life experience, emotional state, and senses that she does; it's usually a request to have empathy for somebody whose behavior you might criticize.

For example, "Laura can't be here today, so I'm giving this speech in her stead." -- Laura can't do the task, so I'm doing it for her. You couldn't use "shoes" in this context.

"Of course she's crying. You would do the same thing in her shoes." -- if you had the same mental and emotional state as she does, you'd act the way she does. You couldn't use "stead" in this case.

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