• 3-minute read
  • 2nd October 2020

Word Choice: Stairs vs. Stares

“Stair” and “stare” are homophones. But while these words sound the same, they have very different meanings. So to make sure you don’t mix up “stairs” and “stares” in your writing, check out our guide below.

Stairs (A Set of Steps)

A flight of “stairs” is a set of steps that leads from one floor to another in a building or structure. For instance, we could say:

Jane’s apartment is at the top of a long flight of stairs.

I waited for her as she walked down the stairs.

The singular noun “stair,” meanwhile, refers to a step in a flight of stairs:

The top stair in our house creaks when you step on it.

I sat on the bottom stair and watched the world pass by.

“Stairs” and “stair,” though, are both always nouns that refer to steps that you can go up or down to change levels in a building or structure.

A person's feet pictured walking up a set of stairs.
Going up?
(Photo: Free-Photos/Pixabay)

Stares (Look Intently at Something)

The verb “stare” means “look at something directly for a long time”:

She would sit and stare across the valley for hours on end.

As in the sentence above, “stare” may imply someone is deep in thought or gazing blankly at something. But it can also imply surprise, fear, or that the person staring is studying something closely. For instance:

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Bob stares in amazement at Cheryl’s outfit.

The deer could only stare into the headlights as the car approached.

The old woman stared at me with big, sad eyes.

Sometimes, we can also use “stare” as a noun:

His blank stare was a little unsettling.

If we focus on “stares” in particular, then, it can be:

In all cases, though, “stare” and “stares” are related to looking at something.

Summary: Stairs or Stares?

While these words sound the same, they have very different meanings:

  • The noun stairs refers to a flight of steps.
  • The word stares refers to looking intently at something. It can either be a third-person, simple present tense verb or a plural noun.

If you struggle with these words, remember that “stairs” and “stair” always refer to steps. And if you need a word that refers to looking at something, it will always be “stare” or “stares.” If you’d like any more help with your spelling, though, you can always submit a document for proofreading.

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