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Which of these two sentences is more used by people in the USA when talking about staying outside in the shadow/shade?

"I am in the shadow and not in the sun."

OR

"I am in the shade and not in the sun."

In Czech we have the same word for your both occasions "stín". Both things are "light/sun" blockers, so I don't understand the difference.

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  • Off-topic? Why? Explain!
    – Derfder
    Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 20:51
  • None of these explanations offered in the answer section make any sense to a Czech speaker.
    – Derfder
    Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 21:03
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    I don't believe this question is "off-topic". The OP is asking which is the most common usage in the US. Something which I do not believe you can find by referring to a dictionary or a grammar text book. The difference between shade and shadow are perhaps obvious to native speakers but less so with English language learners. Perhaps then it would be fairer to migrate this question to ELL.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 15, 2013 at 2:34

3 Answers 3

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Shade is something which one seeks on a hot, sunny day. We like to sit or walk in the shade. Whereas a shadow is the shape created by the object that blocks the sun (or any other source of light). Shade is associated with a pleasant feeling (mostly for people living in hot climatic regions), but a shadow is usually evocative of something mysterious or threatening. Stalkers lurk in shadows.

So, I am in the shade and not in the sun is more used.

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  • Is "shade" always connected with hot temperature?
    – Derfder
    Commented Jul 7, 2013 at 13:30
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    @Derfder- no, it is usually used when contrasting with direct sunlight. For example: This plant grows best in shady environments.
    – Jim
    Commented Jul 7, 2013 at 13:54
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    No, both shadow and shade occur when there is direct sunlight enough to "cast shadows" and "create shade". It has nothing to do with temperature. You can have shadows and shade when there is snow on the ground, if it is sunny with clear skys. But people wanting to be "in the shade" obviously happens more when it is very hot in direct sunlight.
    – TrevorD
    Commented Jul 7, 2013 at 13:55
  • I agree with TrevorD :)
    – Wonder
    Commented Jul 7, 2013 at 15:59
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    When a cloud comes between the sun and the person, of course it obstructs the rays of the sun from reaching the person; and yes, a shadow IS created. However, since the cloud is very far away from the earth, the shadow gets spread over a relatively larger area of the earth, and hence, the intensity of the shadow gets dissipated. So, the shadow may not be prominent; but the shadow is still there. So it is absolutely correct to say that the person is in the shadow of the cloud.
    – Wonder
    Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 5:19
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Dictionary definitions:

shadow noun 1. a dark shape cast on a surface when an object stands between the surface and the source of light.

shade noun 1. the blocking or partial blocking out of sunlight, or the relative darkness caused by this.

[Emphasis in definitions added.]

A shadow has the specific shape of the item that is blocking the sunlight. If you are walking along the road in the sun, you will see your shadow on the pavement (side walk) - it has the shape of your body and moves along with you. You cannot stand in your own shadow because your body is creating the shadow.

Shade is a more general (and usually larger) area blocked from direct sunlight by buildings, trees, etc.. You may be able to distinguish individual shadows or partial shadows within the shade, but often cannot do so because the individual shadows of trees, buildings, etc. have all merged into a larger area of shade.

P.S. I am answering from a British English perspective. As far as I know, the words are used the same way in the USA.

[Please look words up in the dictionary first, and then if you are still in difficulty, please explain why and what you don't understand. We are not here just to do your research for you because you cannot be bothered to.]

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  • Sorry, but this is not helpfull at all, because in Czech we have the same word for your both occastions "stín". Btw. both things are "light/sun" blockers. I don't see a difference at all :(. Could you be more specific?
    – Derfder
    Commented Jul 7, 2013 at 13:28
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    Your comment illustrates exactly why you should give as much detail in your question as possible. Had you put the information from your comment into your initial question, I would have written a different and more (hopefully) helpful answer first time. By not bothering to provide enough information initially, you are wasting the time of people who are trying to help you, and consequently they may not bother to help you in the future.
    – TrevorD
    Commented Jul 7, 2013 at 13:46
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    Trevor, so "to put oneself in the shade" and "to put oneself in the shadow" can be different in meaning, the former implying the presence of a tree or of a house around?
    – user114
    Commented Jul 7, 2013 at 14:10
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    @TrevorD "Be sure to mention the research you've done and what you're still hoping to learn!" well, your explanation that shadows merge into shade is very bad explanation. sorry. It's like saying that when two clouds meet then they create "cover up" ;)
    – Derfder
    Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 21:09
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    @Derfder Normally in hot countries you seek shade from the sun. To be in the shade means to be out of direct sunlight, and to experience respite from the sun's rays. Of course a building(s) or tree(s) etc. can create not only shade but also shadows, however the word, shadow, suggests that the speaker is more concerned with the actual shape, and contour of the area rather than actively seeking refuge.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 15, 2013 at 2:09
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A shadow (singular noun) is the area of darkness that is created on a surface when a single object blocks the path of light to the surface. You might say "this building casts a shadow" or "those trees cast shadows".

Shade is an area of relative darkness created by one or more shadows. You might say "the shadow of that tall building creates shade".

Compare the following two sentences:

"Fish live in water and not on land"

vs

"My goldfish lives in a tank and not in a cage"

In the first sentence, water and land are used in the same sense as shade. In the second sentence, tank and cage are used in the same sense as shadow.

The usual wording of your sentence would therefore be "I am in the shade and not in the sun".

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  • Yes - it seems that, though both shadow and shade are arguably abstract nouns, shade is more so.
    – Edwin Ashworth
    Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 19:39
  • @EdwinAshworth "Yes - it seems that", does it mean that even native EN speakers like you Edwin have trouble with describing these two words?
    – Derfder
    Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 20:54

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