Say your child played with your pen. Do you ask them "Where did you put it?" and "Where did you leave it?"? According to my study

"Where did you put it?": This implies that the person is being asked where they placed or stored something. It suggests that the speaker believes the person they're asking is responsible for putting the item away or organizing it.

"Where did you leave it?": This suggests that the speaker believes the person they're asking has misplaced the item or forgotten where they placed it.

  • 3
    Your "study" just requires looking up to put and to leave in a dictionary, so I don't understand what you're asking. Yes, you have correctly understood the dictionary definitions as they relate to this context. But it's a pointless distinction in most cases, since all you really want to ask is "Where is it?". And if the respondent doesn't know the answer to that, perhaps "Where did you last have / use it?" Mar 13 at 12:13
  • "Tommy, I told you not to drive my car. Where have you left it this time? At the school playground?"
    – Lambie
    Mar 13 at 14:41
  • Not necessarily their responsibility in the sense of it being their designated task. Where did you put the blue mixing bowl? could be asked of someone who is presumed to have used it last, and who doesn't always return items to their former location when finished with them, but might choose a different shelf or cabinet. In which case one might dare ask "Where did you put the blue mixing bowl this time?"
    – TimR
    Mar 13 at 16:38
  • "Leave" doesn't have to imply that it's lost or forgotten. (Where'd you get that perception? Maybe edit to show.) It just means that the person is no longer with the thing. "Can you check on my house while I'm gone? I'll leave the key under the mat." Also: don't get the idea that by asking this question, you're learning anything universal about these words. Instead you're learning about what works in this scenario. If I ask my doctor "During my surgery, where did you put your probe," that's a very different question than "where did you leave your probe." Mar 13 at 21:18

1 Answer 1


"Where did you put it?" and "Where did you leave it?" are similar but subtly different in nuance, and they may not always be interchangeable depending on the context.

"Where did you put it?" is typically used when you're asking someone about the specific location where an item was placed, often with the implication that the person deliberately placed the item somewhere. It suggests an action of putting something in a particular spot.

"Where did you leave it?" can imply that the item was placed somewhere, possibly without much thought, and then the person walked away from it. It often carries a connotation of forgetfulness or carelessness.

In many situations, they can be used interchangeably without causing confusion, especially in informal contexts. However, the choice between them might depend on the speaker's perception of how the item came to be in its current location or the speaker's emphasis on the action taken with the item.

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