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I was wondering about the difference between the verb 'hang in the air' and 'hover' in the following context.

For example. If I see something like a UFO or a ghost suspended in the air without moving, would there be a difference between the two verbs?

There was a UFO/ghost/cloud hovering above my house.

There was a UFO/ghost/cloud hanging (in the air) above my house.

Notice that I wrote 'in the air' in brackets because I would also like to know if in this case it would be redundant.

PS I know about the other (metaphorical) meaning of 'hang in the air', so let's leave that aside.

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  • What do the dictionaries say? Have you looked for instances of 'hovering' and 'hanging in the air' using NGrams? What do you think is the difference?
    – JavaLatte
    Sep 22, 2022 at 14:02
  • @JavaLatte. Yes. Hang has more meanings, but the one about being suspended in the air seems just like the meaning of hover. I also ran a search on ngram. But it wasn't that reliable since 'hang in the air' is mostly used in the idiomatic sense.
    – Fra
    Sep 22, 2022 at 14:06
  • I really hate the / thing you used. Pick the right word and use it. Don't try to use multiple words. All that happens with the / is the sentence becomes unclear.
    – BillOnne
    Sep 22, 2022 at 15:46
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    Hanging usually means 'hanging from something' rather than 'floating in the air'. You could use floating as well. Sep 22, 2022 at 17:14

1 Answer 1

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The same sight could be described by either, but it would have a somewhat different force.

"Hover" suggests continual effort, an upward force or propulsion provided by the thing hovering. It's similar to "levitate". Helicopters, hummingbirds, UFOs hover.

"Hang" suggests suspension, an interrupted fall. It's similar to "freeze".1 Stars, clouds, dramatic skateboarders hang in the air.

As Kate said, "float" is a good alternative to "hang" as well. It offers the same sense of passivity.

None of these totally exclude the others, in my opinion. It would just be more or less apt, more or less poetic, more or less easily pictured.


You could not drop "in the air" in your example without forcing the reader to think a little, because the default interpretation of "hanging" is not suspension in the air, but from something — whether it's a rope or a thread a tail curled round a branch, as a monkey hangs from a tree. If you said a UFO was hanging above your house, I would wonder what it was hanging from.


1 It's interesting to consider that these are essentially synonyms when it comes to computers.

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