Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Shade or shadow?

Foreign languages would be easier to learn if they followed the same pattern of the mother tongue: if they had exactly the same grammatical structure and the words were exact equivalents... But, unfortunately, this is just wishful thinking and things are much more difficult. Not only are there differences in grammar but also words don't describe the same realities and it's very common that you can use several words in a language and maybe just one in another to refer to the same thing. This is what makes translation a difficult job, because the translator has to take into account the context to put the same idea in the other language and try to be as accurate as possible when choosing one word or another.

Today we will have a look at two words that pose difficulty for Spanish speakers, as they are translated by the same word: “sombra”. These words are shadow and shade.

A shadow is a dark shape made when a light shines on a person or an object. It can be used with the verb to cast. As the sun was going down, the bare trees cast long shadows on the ground.

Two shadows
Image: 'wanderer'

A shade is a cool dark area under or behind a tree, a building, etc. that is protected from the heat of the sun. The adjective shady can be used for these areas. We had some drinks in the cool, shady garden.
A rocking chair in the shade
Image: 'Porch Rocker'

When shadow is used as an uncountable noun or in the plural (the shadows) it means “darkness”. I couldn't see her very well as her face was in shadow.

Shadow can be used as a verb to mean “to follow someone closely and secretly”. And it can also be used as an adjective when referring to politicians of the opposition party that would be ministers if they won the election. Nine previous members of the shadow cabinet have not made it to the new cabinet.

If somebody has shadows under the eyes, they have dark areas under the eyes because they are tired. But if they use eye shadow, they are using make-up on their eyelids.

Apart from that first meaning, shade is also the part of lamp that makes its light less bright.
mage: 'Night lamp with handmade paper shade'

Shade can also be used with colours to say how dark or light they are. She was wearing a pleasant pastel shade of blue.
Shades of green
Image: 'Into the Green at Hidcote Manor Garden'

When used in the plural, shades can mean “sunglasses”.

  • If you are scared of your own shadow, you are easily frightened.
  • To put somebody or something in the shade means to be much better than that person or thing. I thought I had done well in the exams, but John's results put mine in the shade.
Now you can check how much you have learnt with this exercise:


  1. Very interesting article!!!!! Ale Orellana

  2. Thank you very much! I'm glad you like it!

  3. It was really cool article. I really enjoyed reading it.

  4. Thank you very much for your kind comments!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...