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shade or shadow?

Shadow or Shade?

by | 18 Jul 2019 | English Language


Because there is only one word for both shadow and shade in many languages, you may be wondering when you should use one or the other word in English.

Indeed, in Spanish,Portuguese, French, Italian, German, Swedish, Dutch, Greek and other languages use one same word for both shade and shadow.

So, what is the difference between shade and shadow in English?


The shade is the area away from direct sunlight. It’s the darker, cooler area when it’s too bright and too hot in the sun.

Imagine you’re on the beach, the sun is shining and it’s very hot. You’ll want to lie in the shade, i.e. away from the sun, on a hammock:

in the shade (not shadow)


Note: Shade is also the word you can use to talk about slight differences in colours or tints –we also say “hue”–, hence the title of the famous novel series by E.L. James “Fifty Shades of Grey”


A shadow is the dark shape made on a surface when a person or an object is in the way between that same surface and a source of light ; the source of light can be an artificial light or the sun.

shadows (not shades)



A shadow is what will enable you to read the time on a sundial for example. You can also think of Peter Pan trying to catch with his shadow :

There you are! You now know the difference between a shadow and a shade. Congratulations! 😉


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