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Suppose some machine sometimes stops its work and waits for water in the tank to be replaced.
What word (delay or pause) should be used in the sentence below?

The machine resumes its work after ______.

Here are other examples.

  1. Suppose somebody was cooking soup. According to the recipe, (at a certain step) he stirred for some time, then added some ingredients, waited for 10 minutes, and then stirred again. (We don’t know what he did during those 10 minutes. He could have slept or talked on the phone, but he didn’t work).
  2. Suppose a machine was cooking soup. According to the program, it stirred, added the ingredients automatically, waited for 10 minutes, and then stirred again. (During those 10 minutes, it didn’t stir, didn’t add ingredients. However, it wasn’t absolutely idle because it had to count down the interval of 10 minutes).

He (it) resumed stirring after ______ of 10 minutes.

  • What word is more suitable in the blank: delay or pause (or something else)?

I would prefer “pause”, but there is a command “delay” in some programming languages.
delay 1000 means that computer should wait for 1000 milliseconds before executing the following command. It resembles very closely to the examples above.

  • to be both word imply waiting for the passage of time, the machine is not doing that. – Jasen Jan 25 '18 at 9:28
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    To me, "delay" is related to expectations, but without implying inactivity. If a train has to do an unexpected 20 minutes pause, then once the train starts moving again, it will still be dealyed because it will be arriving to the stations 20 minutes later than it should – Octania Jan 25 '18 at 10:32
  • @Jasen Sorry, I didn’t understand your comment. Could you say it in other words please? – Diusha Jan 26 '18 at 9:48
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    @Diusha No, I want to know why you don't find "wait" or "waiting" an acceptable answer. – Spencer Jan 26 '18 at 12:28
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    @Diusha Both of those assumptions are incorrect. – Spencer Jan 27 '18 at 11:39
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You used wait to define your question, so why not use it in your example sentences?

The machine resumes its work after waiting (e.g. a while).

He (it) resumed stirring after a wait of 10 minutes.

He (it) resumed stirring after waiting 10 minutes.

"Wait" does not (as you originally thought) imply that a person is doing the action. English has a very old proverb

Time and tide wait for no man.

The general idea is much older, and this form is attributed incorrectly to Chaucer (nauseatingly) frequently. Time and tide taryeth for no man makes an appearance in 1576, but Google Ngrams does show "wait" being used by 1817.

If you want some dictionary definitions, Merriam-Webster has the following:

4a : to be ready and available: slippers waiting by the bed

4b : to remain temporarily neglected or unrealized: the chores can wait

Or Dictionary.com:

to be available or in readiness: A letter is waiting for you.

to remain neglected for a time: a matter that can wait

Or Google:

remain for some purpose. He found the train waiting at the platform

These are all verb definitions, but all sources have a noun definition of "wait" as "a period of waiting".


If, for some reason, you really don't want to use wait, pause is close enough in meaning to make no difference, but I would not recommend delay:

1a : the act of postponing, hindering, or causing something to occur more slowly than normal (M-W)

unless you want people to think the machine might be taking longer than expected. This might not be a problem if you expect your audience to understand the specific technical meaning

the time interval between the propagation of an electrical signal and its reception. (Google)

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