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I found the following example in my vocabulary:

The town is situated on a plateau high up among the mountains of the north.

Can I replace situated with located for the example above? What's the difference?

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+1: I really don't know. This is surprisingly difficult. –  advs89 Mar 22 '11 at 18:36
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7 Answers 7

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Yes, the replacement works fine. I can't think of a difference other than that located might be slightly more standard in the parts of the US that I've lived in.

For what it's worth, you don't really need either of the two words here,

The town is on a plateau high up among the mountains of the north.

is not at all ambiguous.

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you are right. Adding located or situated doesn't add any clarity. I love it when sentences get smaller. –  Evik James Mar 9 '11 at 23:43
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For this example, the two words are interchangeable.
There are other usages of "situated" (especially when referring to something being "well-situated") where "located" would not be a suitable replacement, but "positioned" might be appropriate. For example, "He was well-situated to take advantage of the ensuing mayhem."

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It is arguable that 'situated' implies a strategic or deliberate placement, while 'located' suggests something more arbitrary and relative.

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Absolutely. An object may be situated where you put it, or located wherever it happens to be. –  FumbleFingers Mar 23 '11 at 0:11
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In engineering, we use the word "situated" to mean "within a situation", rather than "located in a specific place". For example, I could define an agent as a situated entity, meaning that agents occur, by definition, within a given situation or context. I don't care where agents are; I only care about the fact that they are situated.

In this sense, "situated" is not exchangeable by "located".

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The two words can be used almost interchangeably. Located simply refers to where something is. Situated is a bit more specific and most often refers to an environment rather than just to an address.

Located at 101 Glory Street

or

Situated on a tree-lined boulevard in a tony office park

Located would work with the second example, but situated would sound stilted in the first.

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Situated can refer to an object's orientation in addition to its location:

His hat is situated at a 45 degree angle.

This is mostly useful in sentences such as:

The car is precariously situated on the cliff.

This means that the car's orientation is precarious in addition to its location.

When an object is referred to as "situated" instead of "located," there is a subtle implication that the location was specifically chosen.

The lamp is located in the corner.

The lamp is situated in the corner.

In this case, the sentence is declaring that the lamp is either (a) specifically oriented or (b) specifically located in the corner.

The library is situated near the park

The library is located near the park

In this case, I would guess that the author is intending to signal that the library is specifically located near the park. The sentence is not merely providing directions to the library; it is telling you that the library is meant to be near the park. In other words, either the library or the park was placed there to be next to the other.

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They essentially have the same meaning. But as located has a verb form to locate, it feels (to me at least) much more active and liable to change.

I would never say I am currently situated in the town square, if I am leaving that place in few minutes. I would use located.

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