What's the difference between stair and stare?

Stair and stare are two words that exactly sound the same. Yes, you read it right! They sound the same but they have different spellings. In English, we call these words homophones.

There are so many homophones in the English language and stair and stare are just among the best examples.

We always hear someone say “Let’s take the stairs.” and “Stop staring at me!” in movies. Clearly, it’s very easy to use them in spoken English, but I doubt if it’s the same in written English. Why? Because they don’t have the same spelling.

In this article, we are going to learn the difference between the words stair and stare. Are you ready? Let’s start!

When to use "stair"

The word “stair” is a noun. It is the singular form of stairs which means a set of steps that lead from one level of a building to another. Oftentimes, the term is seen in the plural form, stairs. A set of stairs is often referred to as a flight of stairs.

N. B. The word “stair” comes from the Old English word stæger, which means a staircase or a flight of stairs.

For example:

Tom fell down some stairs and broke his wrist.

Which do you prefer the stairs or the elevator?

I tripped going up the stairs, and my books went flying.

When to use "stare"

Yes, “stair” and “stare” may sound exactly the same, but their definitions are different. Moreover, unlike “stair” which functions only as a noun, stares can be both noun and verb. The verb stare means to look steadily, intently, or vacantly at someone or something.

N. B. Stare came from the Old English word ‘starian,’ which means to gaze at intently, to look at fixedly.

For example:

The stranger stared at me, and I suddenly felt nervous and anxious.

Don’t stare at people like that, it’s rude.

He stared at the distance and wondered what beauty lies therein.

As a noun, stare means a long look with eyes wide open and unblinking.

For example:

He gave her a long stare but didn’t answer her question.

The stare of Medusa can turn someone into stone.

She tried to silence them with a menacing stare.

Idioms with Stare

Stare (Someone) Down

Definition: the phrasal verb to stare down means to look directly and intently at someone or something, usually until that person or animal becomes uncomfortable and looks away.

“She was so mad at her boss for not giving her a raise. So, she rushed to him, stared down, and told him she deserved a raise.”

Stare (Someone) in the Face

Definition: The expression stare (or staring) in the face means that something is (or should be) obvious.

He was confident that the people liked him. Now, the politician is staring defeat in the face after seeing his opponent’s leading with 500 votes against him.

Conclusion

As mention, “stair” and “stare” may sound the same but they have totally different meanings. Words that have similar pronunciation but different meanings and spellings are called homophones. And “stair” and “stare” are just some of the many examples of English homophones.

To avoid mixing up these words, it’s very important to know their definitions, especially when using them in writing.

The word stair is the singular form of stairs. It means a set of steps that lead from one level of a building to another.

The verb stare means to look steadily, intently, or vacantly at someone or something. But as a noun, stare means a long look with eyes wide open and unblinking.

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