school name

facebookicon  lineicon  wechaticon  linkedin icon

Wednesday, 27 May 2015 01:12

Ask Scott Dreyer: What is the difference between "shade" and "shadow"?

Written by
Rate this item
(2 votes)

Q: What is the difference between "shade" and "shadow"?

A: That's a great question! Many Chinese speakers struggle with this one, because it can be the same word in Mandarin: 影子 (Ying tze) or 阴影 (Yinying).

However, in English, they are very different. 

SHADE is an area, usually rather large. That is, it's big enough to provide a cooler temperature than areas getting direct sunlight. Shade is usually more permanent too. In other words, trees provide shade in the same place day by day. It can be a noun, verb, or adjective. You might say, "Even on hot days, our backyard stays cool, thanks to all the shade from that huge maple tree." (noun) 

"We love our neighborhood; even though it is in the city, it has lots of shade trees along the streets." (adjective) 

"Don't plant that tree there. It will grow tall and shade mom's flower garden." (verb)


In the shade of a tree at Watson park



SHADOW is different. Like shade, it is an area that is dark because something is blocking the sun or light. But unlike shade, a shadow is usually small, and a distinct form of one person or thing. Plus, a shadow is more temporary. You can move around and your shadow moves too. You can say, "In the morning and late afternoon, when the sun is low in the sky, your shadow is longer." 

"I remember when our kids were small, and we visited South Taiwan in late June. We were walking to a restaurant for lunch, and because we were near the Tropic of Cancer at noon in late June, we had almost no shadow at all, because the sun was right over us."


People Shadow 540x404


These words pop up in other places too, like this idiom"To be afraid of your shadow" means to be very timid and easily scared. "Our dog is a terrible watchdog. She is such a coward, she is afraid of her own shadow." Learn more about idioms here


Did you know a funny little American holiday involves a small animal and its shadow? Do you know what that holiday is? Read this blog to find out! 

"Shady" (adj.) means dishonest or "crooked." The idea is, people who are dishonest like to operate in the "gray zone," away from the clarity of bright lights.

You can say, "People were afraid to do business with that shady character, because they knew he was a liar."


So now you have it! Shade, shadow, and shady! Want more help with the crazy English language? Contact us at today! 

Read 18681 times Last modified on Wednesday, 07 February 2018 20:32
Scott Dreyer

A licensed teacher in the US state of Virginia since 1987, Scott Dreyer has been helping Chinese speakers improve their English since 1989. Dreyer lived in Taiwan from 1989-1999 where he learned Mandarin, met his wife, started his family, and realized he loved working with Chinese students. He became an award-winning author and started teaching ESL online in 2008. Dreyer and his wife and their four adult children make their home in the beautiful Roanoke Valley in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter all the required information, indicated by an asterisk (*). HTML code is not allowed.