Don't look under the bed.

I know what this sentence means , I think it means you shouldn't see what is under the bed . But I wonder if it is also mean that don't look while you are under the bed . I mean Does ''under'' have two meanings?

Don't stand under the forklift.

In this sentence I think it has second meaning above. I really couldn't understand differnce .

  • 2
    Good question. Under here has only its standard meaning. What you're asking what the prepositional phrase of location ("under the bed") can modify. Certainly it can modify the verb, telling the party addressed where not to look. But it can't modify you, the missing but understood subject of the imperative clause because, well, because it's missing. You could say, "You there under the bed, don't look." Now the prepositional phrase modifies the (explicitly stated) subject, who's presumably under the bed, and commands him not to look out from that position
    – user105719
    Commented Feb 13, 2020 at 8:18
  • Thanks . I have edited my question based on your comment. Commented Feb 13, 2020 at 8:25
  • 2
    "Don't stand under the forklift" does not mean "Don't stand while you're under the forklift." If that were the case, it would be OK to sit under the forklift, which seems just as dangerous. The command applies no matter where you're standing, under the forklift or off to the side. Again, "You under the forklift, don't stand there." is the only way to achieve your meaning. In both cases, under has its standard locative meaning of beneath.
    – user105719
    Commented Feb 13, 2020 at 9:13
  • 1
    There is only a trace of ambiguity here - native speakers would need to have the ambiguity pointed out before they could detect it. It is not idiomatic to use, “Don’t look under the bed” for the very unusual circumstances where you are physically located under the bed while undertaking a “looking” activity. The verb “look” typically projects your presence/attention elsewhere: She looked into the bar and decided not to go in. In contrast, you can only “stand” where you are physically present: I stood in the bar for only a second before deciding to leave.. Commented Feb 13, 2020 at 12:10

1 Answer 1


I believe you're in "dad-joke-territory". In any normal conversation it means "don't look at whatever is or is not under the bed". Otherwise the sentence would be "Don't look while under the bed" to remove the ambiguity that you are using the less used interpretation.

Child: "Dad! I'm hungry!"
Dad: "Hello Hungry, I'm Dad!"

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