I found the following sentence in an archive of the Financial Times articles dated August 29, 2007, which was titled “Chinese? Don’t get ill.”

The problems of the health system are tangled up in the country’s larger policy conflicts. How much of a role should be allowed for the market? The health ministry, which stands to profit from the industry’s growth, is resisting giving too much ground to the private sector.

As I can’t get the exact idea of Chinese Health Ministry “stands to profit” from the industry’s growth, I consulted the meaning of “stand to” with several dictionaries;

Neither of Cambridge or Merriam-Webster Dictionary registers “stand to” as an idiom though both carry “stand up to stg” as an idiom, Oxford Dictionaries provides the definition of “stand to” as;

Military stand ready for an attack, especially one before dawn or after attack. Example: Orders come to the guardsmen to stand to.

Sanseido’s Wisdom English Japanese dictionary carries “stand to” as an idiom meaning “stand ready for.”

The freedictionary.com defines “stand to” as “to rise to (or maintain) an upright position on the feet.

To me, none of the above definitions does seem to comfortably fit to the context of the line, “(Chinese) Health Ministry, stands to profit from the industry’s growth.

What meaning does “stand to” have other than “stand ready for” as an idiom? Or it’s not an idiom, it’s simply a verb (stand) +to do (profit) - from the industry growth.

6 Answers 6


Webster.com has this entry for "stand", which explains precisely this usage:

6 b to be in a position to gain or lose because of an action taken or a commitment made ("stands to make quite a profit")


Perhaps it would help if you thought of the phrase as "stand" and "to profit".

"Stand" here is being used in such a way as to mean that the Chinese Health Ministry (CHM) is in a particular position. In this case, this position is one which will grant it profit.(to profit)

Thus, the Chinese Health Ministry "is in a position"(stands) to profit...


Stand is a verb. It means a great many things. In this particular circumstance it means

to have the possibility or likelihood

Profit is also a verb, and is being used in the usual sense of monetary gain. In your phrase it is being used in the infinitive sense, i.e. to profit.

This is a regular use of the verb stand. It is neutral in its use, so hearing "stands to gain" is just as likely as hearing "stands to lose".

This meaning of stand is used in the context of loss or gain. One does not hear "it stands to be blue", meaning that it is likely to be blue.

So, with regard to your sentence “China’s Health Ministry stands to profit from the industry’s growth”, it could be rewritten “China’s Health Ministry is likely to gain monetarily from the industry’s growth”


It means that the ministry is in a position to profit.


"Stands to profit" - means The Health Ministry is getting profits. Or The Health ministry which is facing profits at that point of time.


There's an active phrase, Joe stands to win the hand if he has the extra spade. It's a prediction of the future. Likely but not certain.

There's a more passive version, "You could stand to wash those hands," where it's a suggestion of action. The meaning is that it's not that onerous or difficult a task and that performing it would be good.

  • 1
    The second phrase is also active (in terms of voice). A passive phrase would be more like "washing those hands is something that could be stood to be done by you". Your second phrase is more tentative, or conditional. Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 12:52

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.