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ASK A TEACHER - Place, Location and Position

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This week we answer a question from Pakistan. Shahid writes:

Question:

What is the difference between these terms: place, location, position, site and situation? -- Shahid, Pakistan.

Answer:

Dear Shahid,

The five terms you gave are very close in meaning. The English language often has more than one word to describe a similar idea or action.

Place

The word "place" is used to describe an area that may not have an exact border. In fact, it may not be a particular or special area. Place is so general it could be a room, a building, a town, a country, or something else. For example, in a news broadcast, I heard this sentence:

The beach is one of the safest places to be these days.

Official documents may ask for your "place of birth," which usually means a city and country.

People wearing masks gather to form a 'bread' line at Bread Alone outdoor market, while maintaining social distancing requirements during the COVID-19 outbreak April 4, 2020 in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
People wearing masks gather to form a 'bread' line at Bread Alone outdoor market, while maintaining social distancing requirements during the COVID-19 outbreak April 4, 2020 in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Have you ever been waiting in line but need to leave for a short period? Then you might ask someone:

Will you hold my place in line?

This use of place is the same as how we use the word "position."

Position

Position means a specific point.

The position of something is relative to other things. For example, in an auto race, the "pole position" is in the first row on the inside lane.

Driver Danica Patrick greets fans as she is introduced before the start of the Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup series auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Feb. 22, 2015
Driver Danica Patrick greets fans as she is introduced before the start of the Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup series auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Feb. 22, 2015

She earned the pole position for the race because she was the fastest driver this year.

A position can also be a way of holding one's body, as in this example.

Most office workers spend the day in a sitting position.

Location

The word "location" is used to describe a specific point in physical space. For example:

The location of a business is very important to its success.

People who buy and sell homes and buildings often use the expression:

Location, location, location!

That means a store on a busy street corner is more likely to be successful and a house that is in a nice neighborhood will be easier to sell.

Site

A related word is "site," which we can use for the present or past location of a building or an important event in history, as in:

This was the site of the first battle in the war.

We also use "site" to talk about the future location of a building or structure:

The mayor chose the site of the new memorial.

Situation

Finally, Shahid, you asked about the word "situation." This is an old-fashioned and more formal, or official, way to talk about a place:

The house is in a wonderful situation close to the water.

However, American English speakers generally no longer use this word when talking about specific places.

I hope these answers help when you want to use these five place terms.

Your questions

What questions do you have about English? Send us an email at [email protected].

And that's Ask a Teacher for this week.

I'm Jill Robbins.

Dr. Jill Robbins wrote this story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

Words in This Story

locationn. a place or position

site n. the place where something (such as a building) is, was, or will be located

beach – n. land along a body of water

rown. several objects organized in a straight line

lanen. a narrow road or path for a single line of vehicles

old-fashionedadj. of or related to something from the past

Do you have a question for the teacher? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or send us an email at [email protected].

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