Is it more correct to say "I climbed up the stairs" or "I walked up the stairs"?

Climb is defined as

go or come up a (slope or staircase); ascend.

Walk is defined as

an act of travelling or an outing on foot.

Both are theoretically correct, but is one more correct than the other?

  • 1
    books.google.com/ngrams/… – Jim Sep 5 '16 at 5:43
  • Neither is more correct. They mean different things. – JEL Sep 5 '16 at 9:00
  • Why does one have to be "more correct" than the other? – Hot Licks Sep 5 '16 at 16:43
  • @HotLicks One does not have to be more correct than the other. I am asking if one of them is more correct than the other. – techydesigner Sep 5 '16 at 21:09

From Merriam-Webster:

climb: to move or go up (something) using your feet and often your hands

From Dictionary.com:

climb: to ascend, go up, or get to the top of, especially by the use of the hands and feet or feet alone or by continuous or strenuous effort: to climb a rope; to climb the stairs; to climb a mountain

Because climb when used without an adverb or prepositional phrase (e.g., over, over the rocks, down, down the stairs) implies "up", one should leave out "up" in this case.

So, either of the following would be equally correct:

I climbed the stairs. (Not "I climbed up the stairs.")


I walked up the stairs.

  • 6
    Climb doesn't imply up. You can just as easily climb down something. – Mr Lister Sep 5 '16 at 8:37
  • 3
    @MrLister Perfectly true, but we do climb stairs, climb mountains, and climb buildings. However we climb down a mineshaft, and we climb down from on high. In other words with the word climb the presumption is that it means up, unless down is specified. – WS2 Sep 5 '16 at 9:08
  • @WS2 Illuminating point re "down" versus "up". – Richard Kayser Sep 5 '16 at 14:51
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    @RichardKayser There wouldn't be anything much wrong with saying I climbed up the stairs, or I climbed up the mountain for that matter. But it is not the usual idiomatic form, that is all. However climb up does provide a nuanced variant - perhaps implying that it was all done rather more easily and quickly than would be realistic. (At least that would be my view of climb up. Others may feel differently.). – WS2 Sep 5 '16 at 16:38
  • 1
    As regards the original question, if I were talking about our own stairs at home, which I use every day, I think I would say I walked up the stairs, or I went upstairs. However if I visited a tall building and the lifts (elevators) were not working, I might say I had to climb the stairs to the eighteenth floor. If I had to go into my loft (attic) at home I would probably say I climbed up the loft ladder. Our speech is highly nuanced but it is not always easy to spot the rules which we all employ, without thinking, every day. – WS2 Sep 5 '16 at 22:16

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