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Within an episodic instructive comedy named "Extra", when one of the characters saw a hazardous insect is moving on the other character's shirt, she got panicked and said:

Hold still, Hector.

I know it means "don't move". But according to the Longman Dictionary's definition, it seems that "still" is mostly used for people.

I wonder if you can tell me a little about the nuance between these two similar imperative sentences.

I guess there should be an AE/BE difference or maybe as Longman confirms, the former is mostly used for people and the latter one is used for everything.

  • What is an AE/BE difference? I don't see any difference between those expressions in that context. – Jack O'Flaherty Apr 30 at 11:42
  • The dialogues within the "Extra series" are in British @Jack O'Flasherty. – A-friend Apr 30 at 12:33
  • So it's American English / British English. Thanks. – Jack O'Flaherty Apr 30 at 17:21
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"Hold still" is an expression, and in your particular context it's equivalent to "don't move". That said, there are contexts where one of those sounds more natural:

  • a police officer is way likelier to say "don't move!" rather than "hold still!". In fact, the latter would sound odd/funny.
  • a doctor trying to perform a procedure on you, or a hairdresser trying to give you a haircut, are likelier to say "hold still" if they need you to stay motionless for a moment. "Don't move" might be too forceful or even rude in such a context.
  • sometimes, colloquially, "don't move" is used to mean "wait a little bit/don't go anywhere", as in "I need to see who's at the door, don't move - I'll be right back". "hold still" doesn't have that secondary meaning, so it would sound odd here. It would be as if you're saying "while you're waiting for me, stay completely motionless".

Does that give you a sense for the difference? I can try and find a more cohesive explanation somewhere on the interwebs.

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  • Thank you very much for the time and effort you put for a better clarification @RuslanD. Just regarding "wait a little bit/don't go anywhere", I would personally always use "hang in there; I'll be right back". (Please correct me if I'm mistaken.) – A-friend Apr 30 at 18:26
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    @A-friend "hang in there" usually means "stay strong/don't give up" (see this dictionary entry). – RuslanD Apr 30 at 19:41
  • Oh, I meant "stay put" @RuslanD. That was a screw-up. Sorry. – A-friend Apr 30 at 20:50
  • @A-friend no worries :) This is a learners' forum. – RuslanD Apr 30 at 21:22

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