Phrasal Verbs with Stand

By Maeve Maddox

The comment of a new U.S. resident telling about how he obtained residency got me thinking about the difficulties that ESL learners must have with phrasal verbs built on stand:

A Vincentian priest at the parish stood in for me as a witness when I became a resident. With the help of several people in the church I got my work permit and became a citizen.”

The grammar is unexceptionable, but the expression “stood in for me” conveys an unintended meaning. The new resident means that the priest “sponsored” or “testified for” him, but the idiom “to stand in for” means “to take the place of someone”:

Paul Walker’s brothers stand in for actor’s final scenes for Fast & Furious 7 movie

Cyril Ramaphosa to stand in for Zuma at briefing

To convey the sense of sponsorship or testimony, one would say, “stand for witness,” “stand as witness,” or “stand up for”:

At their hurried marriage, only a little boy stood for witness.

I stand as witness for a sixteen-year-old boy I never met.

My sister stood up for me at my wedding.

“Stand up” can also mean, “fail to keep an appointment”: Her date stood her up at the last minute.

A person “stands for” office. Countries and people “stand by,” “stand with,” or “stand up for” their friends:

US says it will stand by allies against China

The state of South Carolina is now offering drivers licenses that read: “South Carolina Stands with Israel”

Students Stand Up for Football Coach Banned From Praying With Team

As a verb, “stand by” means “to wait in readiness.” The noun stand-by means “a state of readiness:

Police asked to stand by in case of trouble.
Canteens on Stand-By to Respond to Tropical Storm Debby
Egypt celebrates anniversary as army remains on stand-by
Emergency services on standby to treat fans in Manaus

“Stand by” also means, “to look on without intervening”:

Pakistani Woman Beaten To Death By Her Family As Police Stand By

We simply cannot afford to stand by while drugs, crime, corruption and terrorism devastate this already vulnerable region.

As an imperative, “Stand by” means “wait for further developments”:

We’re Experiencing Technical Difficulties – Please Stand By…

Many of these phrasal verbs are used with a literal meaning that is clear from the context:

Stand aside so I can stay on the sidewalk.
Stand up when the Queen enters the room.
Stand back so the water doesn’t hit you.

Here are a few more phrasal verbs built on stand:

stand on: maintain
“I stand on my decision.”

stand aside/stand back: get out of the way
If you can’t do the job as manager, stand aside/back and let me do it.

stand for: represent, tolerate
Superman stands for truth, justice, and the American Way.
The boss won’t stand for repeated tardiness.

stand out: be noticeable
Wear something plain so you won’t stand out.

stand up to: defend against, challenge, refuse to submit
Next time George tries to take your lunch money, stand up to him.

stand between: present a barrier
His mother claims she doesn’t want to stand between them, but every time they set a date, she gets sick.

stand down: leave the witness box; relax; withdraw.
The witness was told to stand down.
Police ordered to stand down as city burned.

stand off: keep at distance
The patrol stood off the enemy for three hours.

Phrasal verbs represent only a small number of idioms that employ the word stand. A great many additional stand expressions remain to be discussed in another post.

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4 Responses to “Phrasal Verbs with Stand”

  • Rich Wheeler

    My eyes are getting pretty bad. I was wondering why you’d write about Nasal Nerds with Sand.

  • Fokke Hoekstra

    Hello Maeve,

    There’s a good chance that the new resident was born Dutch. In Dutch ‘instaan voor’ means ‘to vouch for’ and would fit the meaning in the quoted phrase perfectly. ‘To stand in for’ would be a too litteral translation of the Dutch expression.

    Kind regards,
    Fokke

  • venqax

    And before it comes up: “Go stand by your brother for the photograph”
    is not the same thing. IN that case stand is a regular verb and by is its preposition. It is completely different from “stand by” meaning “to wait in readiness.” (this is a prophylactic post)

  • Roberta B.

    @venqax – I think the point of this one is about idioms – one of the more frustrating things for foreign speakers, and one of the more complicated things to explain to them.
    Prophylactic? Have you noticed a lot of the extraneous discussion has subsided?

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