'Stationary' or 'Stationery'? What Is the Difference? | Mastering Grammar

(Last Updated: 12 October 2022)

stationary vs stationery

The Difference between Stationary and Stationery

Stationary and stationery sound the same but their meanings are completely different.

Stationary (with an A) is an adjective that means 'not moving':

✅ The train has been stationary for over ten minutes.

I'm going to be late for school. My bus has been stationary for nearly fifteen minutes.

Stationery (with an E) is a noun that refers to items such as paper, pens, envelopes, and notebooks:

✅ There is a stationery shop just across the road.

I need to buy some new stationery before I start school next week.

Note that stationery is uncountable, so it is never used in the plural and it never takes the indefinite article a:

I bought many stationeries that I didn't need at all.
I bought a lot of stationery that I didn't need at all.

They sell the widest range of stationeries in Hong Kong.
They sell the widest range of stationery in Hong Kong.

The charm of a stationery goes far beyond what you can see.
The charm of a piece of stationery goes far beyond what you can see.

Tips for Remembering the Difference between Stationary and Stationery

A handy tip is to remember that stationery includes envelopes.

The spelling difference can act as a helpful mnemonic device.

Examples from the Media

The vintage Corvette from his Game days is parked out there. It's a handsome machine—low-roofed, thick-wheeled—but it has the rather dusty and forlorn look of a car that has been stationary a while. —The Guardian (2015)

Stationery enthusiast Joel Chung Yin-chai believes having the right pencil could have a positive impact on a child's life. South China Morning Post (2017)

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Should It Be 'Stationary' or 'Stationery'?


Choose the correct answers to complete the sentences.

1. Don't forget to bring your stationary/stationery.

2. A stationary/stationery bus can hide pedestrians who are trying to cross the road just in front of it.

3. How did you manage to hit a stationary/stationery car?

4. I used to walk past that stationary/stationery shop every day on my way home.

Answer Key

1. stationery    2. stationary    3. stationary    4. stationery

Real-World Examples of Misuse

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