“Under The Shade of A Tree” or “In The Shade of A Tree”?

The phrases “under the shade of a tree” and “in the shade of a tree” are two phrases in the English language  that sound similar to each other and seem to mean the same thing. This article looks at the subtle differences  between the two that are often overlooked.

Is It “Under The Shade of A Tree” or “In The Shade of A Tree”?

The more grammatically correct phrase is “in the shade of a tree”, not “under the shade of a tree”.  This is because you can sit “in the shade”, but not “under” it. However, both phrases may be  considered correct and are used interchangeably in casual everyday conversation.

under or in the shade of a tree

The phrases “under the shade of a tree” and “in the shade of a tree” differ in the preposition used. “Under” is  a preposition that means something is below or beneath another thing. Meanwhile, “in” is a preposition used  to refer to something that is inside or within another thing.

The word “shade”, as used in both these phrases, is a noun that means “shelter and comparative darkness  from sunlight”. Given this, the more grammatically correct preposition to use is “in” rather than “under”.  Because you cannot sit “under” the shade, you can only sit “in” it.

However, this distinction is often overlooked in everyday conversation. Many native English speakers do not  distinguish between the two and use these phrases interchangeably.

Under The Shade of A Tree

“Under the shade of a tree” is not grammatically correct, but used informally to mean that something  or someone is in the shelter and shadow provided by a tree. 

The phrase is not grammatically correct. The correct preposition to use in this situation is “in”. “Shade” in  this phrase is synonymous with the words “shelter” or “shadow”. Thus, it is a place that you sit “in” rather  than “under”.

However, it becomes grammatically correct if you exclude the words “the shade of” so that the phrase  becomes “under a tree”.

Here are some examples of sentences that use “under the shade of a tree”, with the more grammatically  correct version of the sentence below it:

  1. Incorrect: My husband and I had a picnic under the shade of a tree.
  2. Correct: My husband and I had a picnic under a tree. 
  3. Incorrect: My great-grandfather’s favorite bench can be found under the shade of a tree.
  4. Correct: My great-grandfather’s favorite bench can be found under a tree.
  5. Incorrect: My sister, taking a break from our game of hide-and-seek, found solace under the shade of  a tree. 
  6. Correct: My sister, taking a break from our game of hide-and-seek, found solace under a tree. 

In The Shade of A Tree

“In the shade of a tree” is the grammatically correct way to say that something or someone is in the  shelter and shadow provided by a tree. 

Unlike “under the shade of a tree”, “in the shade of a tree” is grammatically correct. This is because of the  nature of the word “shade”. As “shade” is a place that provides shelter and shadow, you sit “in” it rather than  “under” it.

Here are some examples of sentences that correctly use “in the shade of a tree”:

  1. We had our wedding in the garden, where we said our vows in the shade of a tree.
  2. I ran from the noise of the house to sit quietly in the shade of a tree.
  3. She has never found more peace than sitting in the shade of a tree in the afternoon.
  4. Those two are probably cuddling in the shade of a tree somewhere.
  5. He was taking a nap in the shade of a tree.
  6. There, in the shade of a tree, he kissed me.

Is It “In The Shade of A Tree” or “In The Shadow of A Tree”?

Both “in the shade of a tree” and “in the shadow of a tree” are grammatically correct. Both phrases  are also interchangeable. However, data from Google Ngram Viewer shows that “in the shade of a  tree” is more often used than “in the shadow of a tree.” 

The difference between the words “shade” and “shadow” is minimal and the two words can be  interchangeable.

Take these two sentences, for example:

  • I read her letter to me in the shade of a tree.
  • I read her letter to me in the shadow of a tree.

Both sentences mean that the speaker (“I”) read the letter in the shelter and relative darkness provided by a  tree.

However, data from Google Ngram Viewer shows that while there has been an increase in the use of both  phrases in recent years, “in the shade of a tree” is a more popularly used phrase than “in the shadow of a  tree”.

shade of a tree or shadow of a tree

Google Ngram Viewer charts how often certain phrases are used in a wide range of books. The data above  was collected from books published between the years 1950-2019.

Final Thoughts

Between “in the shade of a tree” and “under the shade of a tree”, “in the shade of a tree” is the more  grammatically correct phrase because it is more appropriate to say that you sit “in” the shade, not  “under” it. In casual conversation, however, both are used interchangeably.

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