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There are several words in English to describe an area that is close to water:

beach, coast, shore, strand, waterfront.

Could anyone please explain what they mean exactly and when can we use them interchangeably?

Some specific questions:

  1. Which of them are suitable for rivers, lakes, seas and oceans, respectively?

  2. Does a beach always have sands? Can I use beach if there are only rocks near the water?

  3. The word strand means beach in some other languages. Is this word still being used in everyday English?

  4. Can I say a place is waterfront if it is not part of a town, for example, a forest or a cliff next to water?

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Which of them are suitable for rivers, lakes, seas and oceans, respectively?

“coast” is only used with open waters.

“shore”, “beach” and “waterfront” can be used with any navigable waters.

Non-navigable waters have an “edge”.

Does a beach always have sands? Can I use beach if there are only rocks near the water?

“beach” alone requires sand, but a “rocky beach” could have small rocks that you can easily walk on/over.

The word strand means beach in some other languages. Is this word still being used in everyday English?

“strand” is no longer used, though I know one city with a historic district near the water named “the Strand”. I never bothered looking up what it meant, so thanks!

Can I say a place is waterfront if it is not part of a town, for example, a forest or a cliff next to water?

“waterfront” is primarily an adjective meaning any property that fronts on (borders) the water, no town required.

As a noun “the waterfront”, it means the string of such properties in a city, or more simply all land between the shoreline and the first road parallel to it.

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