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Friday, 10 February 2017 14:54


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Just now I was teaching a male high school student in Shenzhen, South China, in his 1 on 1 English class. We were reading an Indian legend about the Northern Lights, and he asked about the word "still" in this passage:

"The chief often worried about his son. He did not see the boy run and play with other children in the village. Still, the boy would disappear for hours at a time. His parents were never quite sure where he would go."

The student knew "still" meant "continuing," but that made no sense in this case. He asked a great question! Actually, "still" has MANY meanings.


1. to continue or keep on

Joy is still learning English with (Meaning: Joy has kept learning English with for a long time and continues to do so.)


2. to show a contrast (like "but" or "however")

It's winter here. Still, it has not snowed much. (Meaning: Even though it is winter, it has not snowed very much, which seems unusual.)


3. to be quiet

Keep still so mom and dad don't hear us!

A famous Bible verse popular with many Christians and Jews is Psalm 46:10.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”  (NIV)

(In Chinese)


--诗篇 46:10


4. to make no movement

The baby deer stood still; no one even saw her. 


5. to describe water that does not move

It's beautiful to look at a still lake; the water is almost like a mirror, reflecting the sky and clouds.

A popular painting form is called "Still Life," because it is a painting that shows no movement, like this


6. to describe weather without wind

Yesterday was windy but it's still today.


7. the equipment to make whiskey

The police found an illegal still in the woods.



Cultural note: Franklin County, in Southwest Virginia, is known as the "Moonshine Capital of America," because it has a long history of many residents, especially in the poorer, rugged, mountainous western part of the county, making illegal whiskey called "moonshine."  A few weeks ago, I attended a program on the Blue Ridge Parkway to honor Mr. Kinney Rorer, creator and host of the "Back to the Blue Ridge" bluegrass music program. He told this story about moonshine whiskey and the stills that produced it. "My father grew up in Franklin County, Virginia, between Callaway and Henry. He said when we was growing up, everyone around made moonshine whiskey, expect for the Baptist preacher, and he made wooden barrels." He also said, everyone around in western Franklin County then had a large dinner bell outside their home. However, they never rang it to call their family to dinner. They only rang it when they saw someone they didn't know. That was because, in those close-knit communities, everyone knew everyone else. So, if you saw a new person, it might be an "outsider" police officer or tax man coming in to find and destroy the stills. 


Even though the word "still" can be a little confusing, I'm glad you are still reading this. Whenever you have questions about English vocabulary, don't keep still: find someone to ask! If you ask several people and still can't find the answer, feel free to contact me and I will try to help you. Even if you have learned English for a long time, you will probably still keep having lots of questions. That's okay. I started learning Chinese way back in 1989, and I still learn something new about it almost every day. Learning a new language takes a lot of time, but it's still worth it!


Read 24567 times Last modified on Friday, 28 July 2017 21:08
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.

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