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I am confused about which one to use. Do the phrases have the same meanings or different meanings?

  1. Close the door.

  2. Shut the door.

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    Either is acceptable, however an intentional misreading of close the door might result in someone only partially closing the door, whereas I would always interpret shut the door as closing it completely.
    – jimsug
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 4:59
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    It could also imply force. Close the door might mean to be gentle, whereas shut the door might imply doing so forcefully. Depends on the context (i.e., Close the door, the baby is sleeping, vs. Shut the door, you're letting the cold air in).
    – Tucker
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 5:11
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    Is it "eat your dinner" or "have your dinner"? Is it "enter your password" or "key in your password"? Is it "raising a barrier/wall" or "erecting a barrier/wall"? Are they your children or are they your kids? Would you like to have pasta or noodles? Commented May 9, 2014 at 7:17
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    "Dog that hatch!" ~ unknown sailor.
    – KnightHawk
    Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 14:19
  • It is not off-topic but an interesting question!
    – Quidam
    Commented Nov 21, 2019 at 5:43

3 Answers 3

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While there are other phrases that commonly employ one of these and not the other, close and shut have the same meaning and can be used interchangeably in almost all cases.

If one were to replace shut with close in the expression "Shut up!", it would no longer retain its meaning and would only serve to confuse, although someone may find the alteration amusing, lessening the rudeness of the saying.

Since the act of closing and shutting would require the same operation and the state of being closed is nearly always identical to it being shut, you can feel confident using them as near perfect synonyms.

In an effort to distinguish them, I will say that a thing that is closed brings to mind the idea that its contents are enclosed, or inside. It also refers to hours of operation or availability, such as in "that shop is closed", in a way that shut cannot express on its own. An older phrase that encompasses this concept is "that shop is shut up for the day" (closed up works here, too) or "that shops looks like it's shut down".

So really, the differences happen when you get into the other definitions these words have and their separate connotations. The word lover enjoys using English because most words have many definitions. A side effect of having multiple meanings is that when using a word for its clearly intended meaning, one can choose a word that has another meaning that also applies to the situation (and often, this is where a connotation can come from). So knowing how your words are used in other contexts gives you a better idea which synonym to choose for your context.

These are cases where the words retain the close/shut meaning, but where the meaning of the phrases they're in are not identical:

close, shut; close up (temporary closing, in drawing - to bring lines together/close space), shut up (for the night [it would not suffice to say shut up without naming some condition of the shutting]) (temporary closing and shelter & protection); close down, shut down (permanent closing, with shut down sounding more permanent); close the windows, shut the windows (same meaning, but shut sounds a bit harsher);

Hopefully, someone else can improve on this list starter.

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  • See my comments above: essentially, I'd say that close is preferable to shut when grading it, as in shut the door halfway and close the door halfway - the former is almost infelicitous, and definitely questionable. Also: close up and shut up don't allow substitution because they're idiomatic.
    – jimsug
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 5:22
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They mean the same thing in your example, and in other situations too. For example.

"Shut your eyes" is the same as "close your eyes." They are also synonymous when referring to windows, mouths and shops.

However, you wouldn't say "close off the electricity," even though you could say "shut off the electricity" (or motor or water supply).

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    I think there's a slight nuanced difference, as per my comment above - close, I think, has more potential to be graded as in close the door a little and close your eyes halfway.
    – jimsug
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 5:04
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    @jimsug That's true. On the other hand, if your boss asks you to come into their office and close the door I bet you don't ask if they mean halfway. :) Commented May 9, 2014 at 5:17
  • Shut seems more "violent" to me. They're not 100% synonymous.
    – Quidam
    Commented Nov 21, 2019 at 5:44
  • "On the other hand, if your boss asks you to come into their office and close the door I bet you don't ask if they mean halfway". The question is more about the etymological meaning, not the usage.
    – Quidam
    Commented Nov 21, 2019 at 5:45
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    . You're right.
    – Quidam
    Commented Nov 21, 2019 at 23:49
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Shut is used to overlap or cover which results not allowing to come out or get in Like shutters do Close is used to bring near or remove gap which results unavailability of path or way to pass Like come closer They are too close

Both shut n close are different in nature but results into same meaning sometimes

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  • Shut used for "cover", I'm not convinced. Do you have examples or references?
    – Quidam
    Commented Nov 21, 2019 at 5:47

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