The context is a teacher asks a pupil a question and the pupil goes blank. Then other classmates is trying to help him with the answer. What would be the right word to use in the following sentence?

Classmates are prompting/cueing the pupil so that he will not get a bad mark.

Is there any difference in between the words in context?

2 Answers 2


prompting and cueing/cuing can mean almost same thing. However, it's complicated.

A cue is when a person signals to you to do something. The cue for you to begin singing is when the music director raises both hands together. Cues are signs given by people to make other people do things or instruct them to do things or to start to do things. They are also something you interpret as a sign to do something. We say: verbal cues. But cues can be physical or even musical.

In the theater, if an actor is not on the stage, he listen for some dialogue or music or some action on stage and when he hears or sees that, that it is cue to go on stage and do his thing.

A singer might go on stage when another singers leaves. When the other singer leaves, that it is his cue to go onstage himself. Cues can be interpreted by a performer (actor or other) or they can be given to him, by a stage manager giving him a hand signal.

A prompt is more specific: in the theater (again), prompting means when an actor forgets his lines, a prompter (sitting in a little box at the front of the stage, traditionally or in the wings) whispers his lines so the actor can remember them. They usually whisper the next lines.

So, something can be a cue for someone (the person knows this in advance) or a person can be given a cue by a stage manager. Prompting is really just reading out some part of a text, so a person remembers their lines.

I would avoid saying classmates give other classmates cues/prompts so they do not get a bad mark. In any case, a teacher would see that. It almost sounds like cheating.

However, a teacher or pupils can be doing exercises that involve cues or prompts from the teacher or from each other. That yes.

  • I'm pretty sure the asker is talking about cheating. Would you describe that as giving cues/prompts?
    – user3395
    Sep 2, 2018 at 17:35
  • @userr2684291 Well, then, I have disabused him of that notion, haven't I? And I did mention cheating in my next-to-last sentence.
    – Lambie
    Sep 2, 2018 at 18:06
  • I don't see where you disabused them of anything. You mentioned it, and I merely wanted to confirm that's how you'd actually say it. I apologize for asking.
    – user3395
    Sep 2, 2018 at 18:10
  • I apologize to you. I didn't get your question. He may or may not be thinking that. Dunno.
    – Lambie
    Sep 2, 2018 at 18:30
  • userr2684291: you are right I meant cheating Sep 2, 2018 at 19:38

As Lambie has said, a cue is basically an indicator that it is time for you to start doing something, and a prompt may be the same thing, or it may be reading out something that someone has forgotten.

However, in many cases, prompting does not involve whispering the entire forgotten thing, but just trying to give the person enough of a start that they remember the rest of it on their own. In the case of an actor on stage, you don't want to take the risk of having them stand there and throw everything off, so you just feed them as much as you can until they start going; but in many other cases, the prompter is specifically not feeding them a full start, but trying to give them a small hint to get them started.

If someone stands up to recite the Gettysburg address, for example, but can't remember how to start, you might try to prompt them by simply holding up 4 fingers. That could be enough to get them to think "Four ... four score and seven", and then they're off on their own, and you don't give them any more of a hint than that.

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