What’s the difference between “under”, “below”, “beneath”, and “underneath”?

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When we use words like under, below, beneath and underneath it refers to things :


The baby was hiding ______ the table.


Maria is a humble woman. She never talks to people as if they are _________ her.


The exaggerated form of ‘under’ is :


Before you begin, follow the instructions given _______.


No matter how much he yells and screams at us, I think he’s a genuinely nice guy ____________ it all.


If you are __________ eighteen, you are not an adult.


The apartment ________ ours is bigger.


The temperature remained _______ zero for two weeks.


He got out of the car and looked ________ to check if the tyres were flat.


Question 1 of 10

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These words are all similar in meaning, but figuring out the differences between them can be a little tricky. First, it’s helpful to know how common each word is:

  1. “Under” is the most popular.
  2. “Below” is used about 1/4 as often as “under”
  3. “Beneath” is used 1/2 as often as “below”
  4. “Underneath” is used less than 1/2 as often as “beneath”

So if you’re struggling to choose the correct word, “under” is probably the safest choice. Now let’s discuss each word in detail.


“Under” is the default choice. In most situations, you can replace any of the other words with “under”.

Compared to “below”, “under” is more often used to talk about 3-dimensional objects. For example, you’d talk about something being under a table, under a book, etc.

# “Under” is also good for talking about layers of something:

I have on a t-shirt under my jacket.

# You can use “under” for numbers:

  • I did it in under 7 hours.
  • We were able to raise just under fifteen thousand dollars.

# “Under” also shows up in expressions like:

  • under stress
  • under pressure
  • under someone’s control
  • under someone’s influence
  • under consideration
  • under construction
  • under a spell


Compared to “under”, you use “below” more often to talk about the level of something on a flat plane. For example, if you’re describing two photos that hang on a wall, you can say that one of them is “below” the other.

# Use “below” to talk about the level of something, like a temperature:

  • It’s supposed to drop below freezing tonight.

# In writing, you can use “below” to talk about something later on:

  • Please read the instructions below before you begin.
  • The opposite of “below” is “above”.


# “Beneath” is more formal than “under”:

  • In the unlikely event of an emergency water landing, you may find a flotation device beneath your seat cushion.

# It can also suggest being covered by something:

  • beneath the blankets
  • beneath the surface of the water

# When you’re talking about someone’s actions or decisions, you use “beneath” to talk about the true emotions that a person is hiding:

  • Beneath it all, he still loves her.

# When you’re talking about human relationships, being “beneath” someone is very negative. Things or people that are “beneath” you are disgusting. They’re too low for someone with your social position:

  • She acts like some kind of princess, like we’re all beneath her.


# “Underneath” has a kind of casual and expressive feeling. You can choose “underneath” instead of “under” to explain the location of something with a little more emphasis.

A: You found it! Where was it?

B: It was underneath the sofa.

# Think of “underneath” as a more emotional, exciting version of “under”.

Enjoy the lesson!

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