What is the difference between 留, 住 and 呆. They all mean to stay or live. Are they interchangeable ?

  • 1
    呆is a 別字. It should be 待.
    – joehua
    Jul 18, 2021 at 8:32
  • According to dictionaries: 待 (dāi ): 现在一般写作“呆”。
    – dan
    Jul 18, 2021 at 22:20

2 Answers 2


They are not interchangeable

留在 = stay at

住在 = live in

呆在 = stay at

Although both 留在 and 呆在 mean 'stay at', 呆(stay) as a verb implies unproductively


  • We say 留在北京工作, but not 呆在北京工作 (unless you hate the job, and consider it unproductive for yourself)

  • we say 留在家中照顧生病的孩子, but not 呆在家中照顧生病的孩子 (unless you don't want to take care of the sick kid, and consider it a waste of time)

  • Saying 呆在家中整天打電玩 instead of 留在家中整天打電玩 indicated you realize playing video games all day is unproductive

  • another meaning of 呆 as a verb is 'to pause' e.g. 呆了一下 (paused for a moment)

  • another meaning of 留 as a verb is 'to keep' e.g. 留客 (keep the guest at your place)


Yes, "留, 住 and 待 (呆)*. They all mean to stay or live."

留 has the meaning of "to keep", and "to stay", and "待" has the meaning of "wait", "keep in" and "stay in". they do not equal "住", which means physically "to live in" or "to stay over" in a defined location.

  • 她婉留他再多""幾天, 但是他不想再多"住(留,待)"了.

  • 她婉留他再多""幾天, 但是他不想再多"留(住,待)"了.

  • 她婉留他再多""幾天, 但是他不想再多"待(留,住)"了.

All three sentences can be translated to: "She kindly asked him to stay for a few more days, but he did not want to stay any longer.", but they are slightly different as - the first sentence has the strongest indication that she wanted him to stay to live "in her place", or a specific living place such as "the hotel", for a few more days. However, the notion is much weaker in the latter two sentences, as she may have asked him to stay in any place (village, city...) as well as a specific physical living place.

But at the end, I would say they are pretty much interchangeable except in the phrase "婉留", for which "留" cannot be replaced by "住" or "待".

(*) - Agree with user "@joehua" that 呆 is a 別字 of 待.

  • Well, according to dictionaries: 待 (dāi ): 现在一般写作“呆”。
    – dan
    Jul 18, 2021 at 22:18
  • @dan Well, too bad. I am not sure whether it was "simplified" or not, the simplification has changed so many traditional Chinese characters/words for the purpose of ease of recognizing and writing (I guess) without good reasoning. Please ask your Chinese teacher how to translate "我在院子裡呆着", the answer(s) can be fun.
    – r13
    Jul 18, 2021 at 22:51

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