I have seen many people on the Internet from America sharing the sign “Stop Asian Hate”.

I know they mean “Stop hate against Asian people”, but why don't they say “Stop anti-Asian hate”?

I also see people saying “Stop white terrorism”, which means “stop terrorism by white people”, so why does “Stop Asian hate” has the opposite meaning?

I do not understand the grammar here, but I am not a native speaker.

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    People who compile slogans and headlines are seldom concerned with grammar. Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 15:07
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    English grammar lets us be pretty flexible with some things, particularly with uses like signs where precise grammar isn't really the point. Consider "car door" (a door belonging to a car) vs. "chicken soup" (soup made of chickens, not belonging to chickens) vs. "car wash" (a wash for cars, not belonging to them or made of them).
    – stangdon
    Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 16:12
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    Fascinating how such a seemingly simple question has sparked violent disagreement among English speakers. I fear that we may have confused the German even further!
    – stangdon
    Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 1:31
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    A slightly similar, classic example of ambiguity is "Smith's murder", where we can't tell whether Smith carried out the murder or was the victim of it (though my out-of-context intuition is that he was the victim). If the phrase was "Smith's murder of Jones" then Smith would be unambiguously the perpetrator, and if it was "Smith's murder by Jones" then Smith would be unambiguously the victim.
    – rjpond
    Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 10:19
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    I'm curious if you all think "gay bashing" means that there's a bunch of us angry homosexuals out there beating up people. Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 15:25

8 Answers 8


The difference between "Stop Asian hate" and "Stop white terrorism" isn't one of grammar, it's one of semantics.

"Stop Asian hate" and "Stop white terrorism" have the same basic grammatical structure: "(imperative verb) (noun phrase)". That is, there's a verb directing the reader to do something ("stop") and then a noun phrase describing the thing to stop.

Even the noun phrase has the same grammatical structure: "(noun adjunct) (noun)". That is, there's the thing that you want to stop (hate/terrorism) and that's preceded by a descriptor for which specific type of that thing you want to stop. Both of those descriptors are nouns for groups of people, used like an adjective. (There's some potential ambiguity in how you view "white", but I think it's clearest if you think of it as a nominalized adjective subsequently used as a noun adjunct - that is, an adjective turned into a noun turned into an adjective.)

It's in that noun adjunct where the ambiguity lies. Grammatically, the noun adjunct forms a connection between the nouns, but the grammar doesn't specify the type - that is, grammar itself doesn't say if "Asian hate" should be interpreted as "hate towards Asians" or "hate from Asians" - that distinction is entirely found in the semantics.

This sort of contextual ambiguity for noun adjuncts is common in English. Consider "chicken feed" and "chicken soup". One is food for chickens, and one is food made from chickens. Or "fuel oil" versus "corn oil". One is a specific type of oil used as fuel, one is oil made from corn. (Or "baby oil", which is an oil to be used on babies, and not an oil made from babies, despite the theoretical possibility of the latter.) There's nothing grammatically different, the difference is all in the contextual meaning.

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    EDITED "Corn oil" is vegetable oil. “Fuel oil” is oil for fuel, I find neither ambiguous. On the other hand, I agree with the OP that Stop Asian Hate appears to be ambiguous as there are two possible interpretations. It's unlikely a specific oil is needed for corn when that oil is already a byproduct of corn and fuel does not produce oil. It is context (as you also mention) that tells us which meaning is inferred in the slogan.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 18:06
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    @Mari-LouA I'm not disputing that "Stop Asian Hate" could be ambiguous in a way which "corn oil" is not. I'm just emphasizing that it is the meaning rather than grammar which makes it so. I presume the makers of the placards felt it was obvious that "hate against Asians" was the one that made sense, and "hate by Asians" didn't warrant consideration, just as the makers of "baby oil" figured most people will assume it's oil for babies, despite the fact you could theoretically make an oil from babies, just as you can make oil from corn.
    – R.M.
    Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 20:08
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    I actually think "baby oil" is a much better example. I'm sure its ambiguity has been mentioned by someone somewhere.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 20:11
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    This gives a whole new meaning to “for sale: baby shoes, never worn”.
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 22:03
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    @Lambie Is anti-Asian hate hate towards anti-Asians or hate coming from anti-Asians? (where is anti-Asia anyway? seems to be off the coast of Chile) Commented Mar 20, 2021 at 0:17

If you drive in the UK, you'll see road signs that have one word on them - STOP - and this is perfectly acceptable. English learners are sometimes taught as a "rule" that a simple sentence must have a subject and a verb as a minimum, but that isn't the case with orders.

Orders, such as on signs and slogans, don't have to follow the grammatical structure of everyday speech. They are often in the imperative mood, aimed at the reader (or hearer) who is the implied subject. In effect it is asking you to obey the order.

"Stop Asian Hate" is punchy and succinct - it seems clear to me that it is a campaign to stop hate against Asian people - what else could it mean? The only other alternative would be that it is a campaign to stop Asian people hating something else - but what? It wouldn't be a very good slogan if there was no object.

Your suggestion of "Stop anti-Asian Hate" doesn't sound right. It could mean stop hating people who are anti-Asian. Consider "female oppression" - you'd understand that meant oppression of females. You wouldn't say "anti-female oppression".

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    Syntactically, it is an imperative with "Asian Hate" as object. I'd take "Asian" as complement, not modifier, of "hate". (cf, the hatred of Asians").
    – BillJ
    Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 15:49
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    @Lambie "Stop Anti-Asian Hate" could mean stop hating people who are anti-Asian. Embrace the anti-Asians, they're your friend. No, "Asian hate" is like "third-world hunger", it's clear enough as part of a slogan.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 15:57
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    @Lambie Nah. What about "female opression" - is that the oppression of females, or are females doing the oppressing?
    – Astralbee
    Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 16:01
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    female oppression is oppression of females, of course. But Asian is a non-noun adjective. as in Asian cuisine, Asian fashion. So, it you say "Asian hate", you have a problem, Houston. And I really do not think any standard speaker would disagree with what I have said.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 16:18
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    "female oppression is oppression of females, of course." I wouldn't say it's so obvious. Antifeminists do exist, and they may well say that (feminist) women are oppressing men.
    – nick012000
    Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 22:37

This isn't a matter of grammar, but of context. Grammatically it is ambiguous, and could mean either "stop hatred directed at Asian people" or "stop hatred perpetrated by Asian people". We know which one is meant, because we know which one is an issue.

  • Of course, therefore it's best to get rid of any ambiguity by adding the word anti- to the mix.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 13:46
  • @Lambie except that has exactly the same problem: are we talking about hatred directed at anti-Asians or perpetrated by anti-Asians? Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 13:48
  • "anti-Asian hate" is not ambiguous. Here are some more for you: anti-American sentiment, anti-French feelings, anti-Russian attitudes, anti-Chinese behavior etc. etc. etc.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 13:51

It isn't grammatical. A native speaker like me sees this phrase and parses it exactly the way you parsed it: as a command to stop hate by Asians.

but why don't they say “Stop anti-Asian hate”?

Because they wanted a short slogan and didn't care that it didn't make sense.

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    I think "not grammatical" is putting it rather strongly. If I had been asked to come up with the wording, it would have been "stop anti-Asian hate", and I don't think anyone would have interpreted that as "stop hate against anti-Asians" (if they now do so, I think it's because they've seen the other version first). However, how would you respond to the point that "Armenian genocide" means the genocide of the Armenians, not by the Armenians?
    – rjpond
    Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 10:32
  • "didn't care that it didn't make sense." They may not have realized it either in their haste to create the slogan.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 14:48
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    It makes perfect sense. Do you have an example of where someone couldn't understand it? Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 15:34
  • It's an ambiguous parse. It's far too strong to say your preferred parse is ungrammatical. It originates because "Asian" "Canadian" etc. have noun or adjective uses. Other note I take some issue with the word "they" here. It's what caught on. These things are tweet hashtags nowadays so shorter is increasingly preferred.
    – djechlin
    Commented Mar 21, 2021 at 18:05
  • Why is it that I got so much "abuse" and this answer gets none? Hmm.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 13:02

Terrorism is a noun - hate is a verb.

This is a good one!

At first, this looks like pure semantics. After all, in the present culture if you saw a sign "Stop White Hate" you would interpret it a different way.

But not all is settled yet - let's do it the other way: "Stop Asian terrorism". Is that terrorism against Asians? As a native speaker, my guess is that it would be taken to mean terrorism by Asians, same as if the word "white" is used.

So now we've got a conundrum, and we'll have to dig futher. Switching the adjective in #1 is going to get results all over the place: Stop Lithuanian Hate, Stop Kenyan Hate, Stop Norwegian Hate, Stop Brazilian Hate, Stop Dutch Hate... which ones do you take which way? But there's a little clue in the last one, maybe: Stop Netherlander Hate would probably be taken only one way -- I think? --, as hatred of Dutch people, because someone is more properly a Netherlander than a Dutch. There is still some rudimentary differentiation between whether your adjective is a noun or an adjective, I suppose. I'm not convinced that logic goes very far with the others.

But for the second one, we can take all those adjectives and there's no doubt that Dutch terrorism, Netherlander terrorism, Lithuanian terrorism and so on are all referring to the nationality of the terrorist.

So not every nationality is the same part of speech, precisely, but are "terrorism" and "hate" the same part of speech? Hate is a verb turned into a noun. I think when we say "XXX hate" we sometimes mean the verb of hating, by its object (not subject), turned into a noun. In this usage "Asian hate" = "hating Asians" just like "pea planting" means "planting peas". And sometimes we mean the verb of hating, turned into a noun, modified by a noun or adjective used as an adjective. For hate = V, that gives us "STOP (N V)" and "STOP A (V)" to choose from with different meanings. But in terrorism = N, we have "STOP A N" only - with the proviso that almost any A can be replaced with a noun used as an adjective.

Edit: the suggestion below to substitute "hatred" is a good one. Stop Asian Hatred would be unambiguously taken to mean hatred by Asians, because it is forced to be a noun rather than a verb used in a noun phrase. (You could still get the other meaning by inserting a hyphen ... though I'm not quite sure why)

  • I don't see how hate can be a verb in that context. Looks like a noun to me.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Mar 20, 2021 at 20:48
  • To hate someone is a verb. To hate Asians is a verb with an object. Asian hate is a verb, with its object, that has been converted into a noun by being viewed as the action of hating Asians. Now if you use Asian hate as the variety of hate that is done by Asians, then "hate" is still a verb converted to a noun (the act of hating) but it is completely generic and can definitely be found with an "(n)" by it in the dictionary. But either way, it starts off as a verb. Commented Mar 20, 2021 at 22:27
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    Certainly, hate started off as a verb. But Terrorism is a noun - hate is a noun would be equally accurate. Asian hate is a noun phrase, and like many noun phrases is formally ambiguous: this is not dependent on hate being a verb. The semantic relation of the parts in housecoat, raincoat, and overcoat is different in each case, and they are unambiguous only because they are established words with established meanings.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Mar 20, 2021 at 22:52
  • Cooking is a verb, but I would take "try Asian cooking" to be "attempt cooking in an Asian style", rather than "attempt to cook Asians". Commented Mar 20, 2021 at 23:50
  • Cooking is a verb in “I am cooking a dinner”, but it's a noun in “Cooking is difficult”. Same goes for “Stop Asian Hate” – it's a noun both semantically and syntactically. Stop the car = stop the hate, but stop walking = stop hating. Commented Mar 21, 2021 at 10:35

tl;dr Yes, it's poor English: hatred is properly understood as a condition of the hater, not the hated.

To be fair, it's understandable that some might tolerate brevity in a tagline. But it backfires here: the tagline forms a negative association with Asians while purportedly arguing against negative associations with Asians. It's a poor choice of terminology.

It should be "anti-Asian hate".

Properly, it ought to be either

  • anti-Asian hatred

  • anti-Asian hate

, depending on if the noun-form of "hate" is taken to be "hatred" or simply "hate".

It's not "Asian hate".

Literally, "Asian hate" would be hate associated with Asians.

The problem is that hatred isn't equally associated between the hater and the hated. Hatred belongs to the hater; they might feel it toward the hated, but the hated can be entirely unaware. So the Asian association specified in "Asian hatred" would reference hatred in which Asians are the hater; the slogan's construction is clumsy.

Discussion: On choice of adjectives in associations.

Consider Companies A and B. If they've signed a contract with each other, then:

  • Company A may refer to it internally as "the Company B contract";

  • Company B may refer to it internally as "the Company A contract";

using different terms despite referring to the same thing. This difference in qualifiers can make sense in those contexts, serving to concisely communicate what the speaker is referring to.

Now say that Company A makes a proposal for a new contract with Company B:

  • Company B may refer to it internally as "the new Company A proposal"; but

  • Company A is less likely to refer to it internally as "the new Company B proposal".

Though the new proposal is associated with both companies as with the prior contract, it's not equally associated; as the proposer, Company A has a special relationship to the proposal that makes it more theirs.

Hatred is asymmetric: the hater has a special relationship to their own hatred not shared by the target of their feelings. So while there is a connection to the hatred's target, it's not generally appropriate to attribute the hatred to its target.

  • "The problem is that hatred isn't equally associated between the hater and the hated" I think this explains why "white terrorism" parses differently.
    – djechlin
    Commented Mar 21, 2021 at 18:15
  • Yes, as I said in my answer. And had I been you I would have referenced me, after the drubbing I got, even if I was also entering my own answer.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 13:43
  • @Lambie: I empathize, and I wrote a comment in support of your answer plus a +1. Still, I think a lot's about presentation and communication.. which I understand is frustrating. There's a lot that I simply can't express. I ended up omitting a major addition to this answer for lack of time to figure out how to say it.. I was gonna present a programming-code explanation of how language-parsing works and why the current tagline has undesired connotations. But it got too lengthy even before I got into the bulk of the relevant concepts, and.. well, tried to keep things short-and-sweet.
    – Nat
    Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 3:44
  • Hey there again. Right. Thanks for your support. Yes, the programming angle is very, very interesting. It's funny but the OP, I assume, was puzzled by the grammar because they could not see how without anti- the thing made sense. Sometimes, I ascribe all the misprision to youth....:)
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 13:15

At first language came into the picture, then the grammar. Even today we're inventing/creating new words for our needs and also new ways to talk(i.e. forming sentences). As you can see, human language never followed grammars, rather the grammar follows the language. It's communication and understanding that matters, not what we've used to communicate.


This is not a grammar question: it is a question about what is the strongest slogan in stopping violence against Asians. It is the ambiguity of "Asian hate" that one precisely wants to avoid in designing a strong slogan.

Asian cuisine, Asian fashion, Asian customs, etc. etc.

Asian is an adjective. If you think for just a second about the collocations given above, it becomes very clear that one would not want to say "Asian hate" with or without the word "stop" if what you want to do is stop hate against Asians.

Following the logic of the language, you are obliged to use:

  • Stop Anti-Asian hate
  • Stop Violence Against Asians
    As in:
  • Stop Violence Against Women [a well-known slogan]

The fact that "stop Asian hate" shows up on the twitterverse is proof of nothing, except an unfortunate occurrence.

It is just a hashtag:

“I’ve Experienced The Insidious Chill Of Casual Racism”: Why The #StopAsianHate Hashtag Is So Important

It is not a slogan per se.

stopasianhate hashtag and an organization

The New York Times says this:

Opinion Why Has There Been a Spike of Anti-Asian Hate? A small yet aggressive segment of America refuses to accept that the country is made up of people from many different backgrounds.

The AAPI unfortunately forgot to add ANTI- to its slogan.

New York Times

A Google exercise:

  1. Google this: "Asian hate" -stop

That means without the word "stop".

Now, look at the hits: Not one occurrence of: Asian hate.

  1. Google this: "anti-Asian hate", and you will get a number of things including: anti-Asian hate crimes, violence, etc.
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    Asian is sometimes an adjective, and sometimes a noun, as in "Stop AAPI Hate...reported nearly 3,800 instances of discrimination against Asians in the past year" (NPR). But it's also not clear why that would matter here. "Armenian genocide" is genocide of Armenians, not genocide by Armenians, but "Turkish genocide" refers to the genocide carried out by Turks (against Armenians). These kinds of phrases can be ambiguous and we must rely on context.
    – Juhasz
    Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 16:41
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    @Lambie: Some things in language are just ambiguous. Does "to dust" something mean to add dust, or to remove it? "Asian hate" just means "hate related to Asian people"; whether those Asian people are on the giving or receiving end of the hatred is determined by context. If you have a preference for understanding the phrase one way that's fine, but if you're going to claim that it can only have the one meaning then that is just not how language works.
    – psmears
    Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 11:49
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    "it" is a pronoun, dear. No need to be rude just because you're wrong. Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 15:39
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    @Lambie: It's not hard to find examples of "LGBT hate" that are clearly in the same sense 1, 2 (page title). Or maybe you'd like a T-shirt?
    – psmears
    Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 16:20
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    @Lambie: What do you mean "accept them"? They're grammatical English. Just as with the others, the grammar allows multiple meanings, and the context will determine which one people understand. It may be that people understand them to have a different meaning, because of the different contexts they tend to be used in. That sort of inconsistency in meaning is somehow unsatisfying, but it's how language works. If people say things intending to convey a concept, and their audience understand that concept, then that is a successful use of language - whether aesthetically appealing or not :)
    – psmears
    Commented Mar 20, 2021 at 20:51

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