I asked a duplicated question in another SE site. A native speaker left the following comment:

It is somewhat of a duplicate, but the answer to this question, while given in the accepted answer to the other question, is just barely mentioned and could stand emphasizing in that or another answer.

I found this bolded use very peculiar, so I did a little search in Google Books. However, almost all examples are fake ones, like ".. stand, emphasizing ..", ".. took a stand emphasizing ..", etc.

Except for only this one:

A few points brought out by Dr. Smith in my opinion will stand emphasizing: First. A constant and even flow of the gases. Second. Warm gases.

-- Oral Hygiene, Volume 3

Is this a rarely used turn of phrase?

Does stand here mean 'to remain valid, effective, or unaltered', as in 'the agreement stands' or 'be in a specified state or condition', as in 'I stand corrected'?

And how to assess the syntactic function of 'emphasizing' here, a non-finite clause or a complement?

  • I notice that Oral Hygiene, Volume 3 was published in 1913, so some of the usage in that book is likely to sound a little dated now. As J.R. says below, it's more common to say "could stand" than "will stand" now.
    – stangdon
    Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 15:42
  • I just felt a flow of warm gases. Commented Feb 12, 2016 at 16:13

1 Answer 1


It's the first meaning: 'to remain valid, effective, or unaltered', though I would gloss it as "survive".

"Emphasizing" is a non-finite clause, used here in a middle sense: "stand being emphasized" would be a passive form with the same meaning.

Making it more confusing is that this construction "X could stand being Y" is a litotes: the literal meaning is "X would not be harmed by Y being done to it", but the actual meaning is "X would be improved by Y", or, more succinctly, "Y should be done to X".

  • Can I say 'this room will stand refurbishing', or 'the answer could stand being added a few examples, or 'slavery will stand abolishing'?
    – Kinzle B
    Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 13:35
  • 1
    @KinzleB - I think "will stand" sounds awkward in these constructs. It's usually heard in hypothetical situations, like: this room could stand a refurbishing (meaning, it wouldn't hurt to refurbish this room, which means, this room would look better if it was refurbished). The slavery example doesn't work, either, because could stand is a way of talking about a nicety, not a moral condition. So: "We could all stand a raise around here" is okay, if we think we're a little underpaid, but: "This nation could stand to abolish slavery" sounds like the wrong choice of words.
    – J.R.
    Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 14:00
  • @J.R.I found one example: It is, in other words, the psychological moment to execute repairs on any business that will stand refurbishing. But I will not use it myself on your suggestion. :)
    – Kinzle B
    Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 14:11
  • @KinzleB: We can say "This tree could stand trimming". But if we say "This tree could stand cutting down", or "could stand to be cut down", it means the landscape or the vista or whatever would be better off if the tree were to be cut down. The tree would be improved by being cut down. A kind of irony. It's like the scene in Herzog's Aguirre, Zorn Gottes where Don Lope says to one of his henchman words to the effect that another man, who has been giving him some trouble, "could stand to be a head shorter".
    – TimR
    Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 14:54
  • Gerunds or infinitives don't make a difference in these construct? @TRomano
    – Kinzle B
    Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 15:46

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