When two words mean almost the same thing, you will always be confused about which one is appropriate in a particular sentence and which is not. But with the right understanding and practice, it is only a matter of time before you master the usage of the words in the English language. 

A common mistake made by speakers is switching the use of ‘beneath’ and ‘under’. This is quite understandable as both the words mean almost the same thing. Both indicate something is below something else or present in a lower position. 

So, what is the difference between ‘beneath’ and ‘under’?  The meaning of both these words are similar but the difference here is the tone of the words. Under is more informal and widely used compared to beneath. 

But there is more to the usage of these two words and there are more differences and similarities between them. Read on to find out more!

What Is ‘Beneath’?

‘Beneath’ is used when we want to indicate something or someone is below or in a lower position to something or someone.

  • ‘James kept the book beneath the blankets’
  • ‘The invitation is kept beneath the blue box’

‘Beneath’ is also used to indicate when someone sees something as unworthy or disgusting. It is used to indicate someone does not find something or someone else worthy or good enough. 

  • ‘He found it beneath his social status to talk to her’
  • ‘He found the job was beneath his dignity so he did not attend the interview’

What Is ‘Under’?

‘Under’ is used to indicate something or someone is below or in a lower position compared to someone or something else. 

  • ‘The book is under the table’
  • ‘The chocolates are hidden under the table’
  • ‘My dog hides under the bed when he hears loud noises’

‘Under’ is also used to indicate something is below a certain quantity or level. It is also used to indicate someone who works under someone of high authority.

  • ‘The rides are free for all children under 10 years of age’
  • ‘Your score is under a 4 and you need to improve’
  • ‘There are 50 employees under him’

‘Under’ is used to indicate something happening under certain a circumstance or something is going under a particular process. 

  • ‘The building is under construction
  • ‘The project was completed under very difficult situations’
  • ‘The situation is under control, please do not worry.’

Differences Between Beneath And Under

Since these words are synonyms and mean almost the same so it can be confusing to understand the difference between the two. 

When Something Is Below Someone Or Something

‘Beneath is used to indicate when something or someone is under something or someone. It basically indicates a lower position. 

‘Beneath’ is however is used in a more formal context compared to ‘under’. ‘Beneath’ is less used compared to ‘under’.

  • ‘The books are kept beneath the shelf’
  • ‘The green box is kept beneath the table’

‘Under’ also indicates something or someone is in a lower position compared to something or someone. ‘Under’ is less formal and more widely used compared to ‘beneath’.

  • ‘The cat is hiding under the table’
  • ‘Sophia hid her books under the bed’

Numbers

‘Under’ is used to indicate a level or a quantity especially concerning numbers. We do not use ‘beneath’ in such sentences. 

  • ‘The class strength today is just under 50 children’

We, however, do not say:

  • ‘The class strength today is just beneath 50 children’

Rank Or Position

Both ‘under’ and ‘beneath’ are used to indicate rank or position but there is a difference. 

‘Beneath’ is used in a more formal context and when we say something is beneath someone, we usually say it shows unworthiness. It says how something is not good enough for the person.

  • ‘He saw it beneath his social status to do that job’
  • ‘She saw it beneath her dignity to associate with that group’

‘Under’ is usually used to show how people work under the authority of someone or how someone is below someone else in rank. 

  • ‘About 800 people are doing manual labor under his power’
  • ‘Your name comes under Sam’s name in the list’

Comparison Chart: Beneath Vs Under

UNDERBENEATH
To show a lower positionWe use under to show how someone or something is in a lower position than something else. However, ‘under’ is used in a more informal context. We use beneath to show how someone or something is in a lower position than something else. However, ‘beneath’ is used in a more formal context. 
To show position‘Under’ is used to show people working below a person with authority.‘Beneath’ is usually indicated to show a person who finds something or someone below their worthiness
Concerning numbers‘Under’ can be used to show below a certain range or level.‘Beneath’ cannot be used in a context concerning numbers.

Similitudes Between Beneath and Under

Both ‘beneath’ and ‘under’ are used in contexts to indicate something is below someone or something else, it could be directly below or concerning ranks and positions. 

  • ‘The dog hid beneath the table’
  • ‘The paper fell under the table’

The only difference between the two is that ‘under’ is more widely used compared to ‘beneath’. ‘Beneath’ also has a more formal connotation compared to ‘under’. 

Frequently Asked Questions

When Does Beneath And Under Mean The Same?

The words ‘beneath’ and ‘under’ are used to indicate something is placed in a lower position compared to something else. It can also mean something is covered by something else. 

‘Rosie is hiding under the covers’
‘My dog is hiding beneath the covers’

In both these contexts, beneath and under means the same thing. 

Conclusion

Using these two words can be very confusing since they mean the same thing but ‘under’ and ‘beneath’ vary as they create different tones for the sentence. ‘Beneath’ is more formal compared to ‘under’ and is less widely used too

Synonyms can be confusing but with the right amount of practice and understanding, it won’t be a very difficult task. 

References