In this headline:

New Orleans built a power plant for storms. It sat dark for 2 days.

what does 'sat' means? I lack the knowledge to interpret this without the help of a preposition, had it been written: "sat in the dark" I would have understood but I'm not secure that it means the same thing

  • 1
    I wanted to point out for you that I think a more natural way to phrase what you say at the end would be to say "I would have understood but I'm not sure that it means the same thing." The way you wrote it sort of works - it could be taken as you "are not secure in the knowledge that it means the same thing" or something similar. But it doesn't sound like natural English to me personally. I think some people would probably assume it was an autocorrect fail though almost all would likely still understand you.
    – jayce
    Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 1:17
  • @jayce "I'm not secure" sounds like a literal translation from Spanish to me: translate.google.com/…
    – Aaron F
    Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 16:21

3 Answers 3


"Sat dark" is a way of saying it went unused for that time period. "Sat" is using the past tense of "sit," using the meaning of placing something in a spot, for example sitting a drinking glass on a shelf since you don't intend to use it right now. "Dark" is implying the facility is turned off and not operational. So more literally it is like saying "it was left in place turned off for 2 days"

To add, "sat in the dark" is a different meaning which more closely resembles "in the dark" which is a saying used when an individual was not told of some information that they would have liked to know about.

  • 7
    "in the dark" could also mean, literally, in darkness, with no light. Not just the metaphorical meaning of lacking information.
    – Hearth
    Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 5:22
  • 2
    Note that for a power station, a "black start" is a difficult operation and requires an already working source of power. So if this station was disconnected from the grid by powerline failures, there may have been no way to start it when it would have been most useful! That could mean, somebody failed to plan, for example, a diesel generator big enough to start the plant. Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 15:28

The usage of sat in your example sentence means inactive. Just as if you were "sitting around with friends", you're not doing anything in particular. Sat would be used in contrast to some type of action:

New Orleans built a power plant for storms. It Sat dark for 2 days, but then was turned on (or activated / started up).


Welcome to English Language Learners.

In this context the verb 'to sit' is close in meaning to 'to be'.

The plant sat dark for two days.
The plant was dark for two days.

By using the word 'sat' instead of 'was' the speaker makes us think of the plant as something occupying space while being dark.

  • 1
    This is a good answer, but it would be improved by also noting the non-literal meaning of "dark" used here: it doesn't actually mean "unlit" in this context, but rather "turned off" or "not operating". Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 11:49
  • Thanks for the input, @Ilmari Karonen. There is already a lot of information in the other answers and comments about the plant being inactive that I think is confiusng the issue. The question doesn't ask what 'dark' means in this context. It asks what 'sat' means. The other answers explain what 'sat dark' means, so they're not really even answering the question that is posted. That's why I haven't explained the meaning of the word 'dark' in my answer.
    – dwilli
    Commented Sep 12, 2021 at 2:39

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