I am not a native speaker of English and I was having a casual conversation with my friends in the US. I asked them, "Where do you stay?" (which is pretty common in India, as far as I know) for which they gave me a surprised look and told me that people generally don't use the word "stay" and instead the same question will be asked as, "where do you live?".

If I use the word stay, is that offensive or is it just uncommon? What's the major difference between the two usages?


It's just uncommon. Uncommon enough to be confusing, and so worth avoiding.

The word would be "live" in US English, Canadian English and English English, but not Scottish English which also uses "stay" (which is why I said English English before).

Where "live" is used for long term residence, "stay" normally implies a short term visit. If you ask a visitor "where do you stay" they will probably give you the name of their hotel (while thinking you had made a grammatical mistake).

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  • "Uncommon enough to be confusing.." - What causes the confusion here? Can it be interpreted in a different manner? Just curious. Yes, I'll definitely avoid that from now on. – Nagarajan Shanmuganathan Aug 21 '19 at 2:59
  • Confusing as in they don't know what it means. They might guess, but they dont know, so they are confused. – DJClayworth Aug 21 '19 at 3:01
  • I think DJ makes a very good point here and I would like to expand on it. This point is something that is continually overlooked on this site. What is technically not wrong can be confusing and even in some cases misleading. Whilst to explain to non native speakers can be a nightmare. People who have a high points counts are not all native speakers and again sometimes the nuance of our posts can be lost on them. It is difficult enough between US, English, Scottish and Irish people sometimes. Oh! I forgot to included the differences between those lost individuals stranded below Watford Gap. – Brad Aug 21 '19 at 3:30
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    The confusion is because 'stay' normally refers to temporary accommodation. "I'm staying with my aunt for a week." "I'm staying at the Grand Hotel." – Kate Bunting Aug 21 '19 at 9:11
  • brad, the Watford Gap, although there is a motorway (freeway, autoroute) service area called Watford Gap Services. – Michael Harvey Aug 21 '19 at 16:22

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