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Stationary vs Stationery

19 January 2022

What is the difference between Stationary and Stationery

Not only are the terms stationary and stationery homophones, words that sound the same, they are also nearly identical in spelling. One is spelled with an “a” while the other is spelled with an “e”. This often causes confusion among English writers. However, that single letter difference actually makes them worlds apart in terms of their meanings.

The word stationary is an adjective used to mean “not moving or not intended to be moved.” You might be familiar with a stationary bike, a bicycle which you can pedal all you want but you would not reach any destination.

We had to wait patiently in a stationary position for the assembly to start.” (Adjective)

Are Stationary Bikes that Generate Electricity Making a Comeback?” (Adjective)
IEEE Spectrum

We had to wait stationary for the assembly to start.” (Adverb)

On the other hand, the term stationery is a noun used to refer to “writing and other office materials.”

Top Australian stationery brand set to open new Glasgow store.

Cash-strapped council that banned staff from buying stationery still facing £5m black hole.”

Sometimes, it more specifically refers to “writing paper, especially with matching envelopes.”

Personalised stationery: How to say thank you in style.”

An easy way to remember the difference between these two terms is to remember their single letter difference. If you mean something that would stay and not move, then you should use the adjective stationary. Meanwhile, you should use the noun stationery if you are referring to a kind of paper or office material.

What about you? Do you have a pair of confusing words that you want to clarify? Why don’t you share them with me and the English Connection community in the comments section below! 

These bitesize mini-lessons are given to you complimentary when you sign up and join the English Connection community. 


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