Confusing words: high vs. tall
We use tall to say that something is above average height.
High means ‘having a large distance from top to bottom’ or ‘a long way above the ground’.
We often use high when we speak about inanimate things (non-living things).
If you’re not sure whether the adjective you need is high or tall, try thinking about the overall size of the object:
- We use tall mainly for things which are narrower or thinner than they are high: tall people, tall trees, tall buildings (with a lot of floors).
- We prefer to use high for things which are very wide: high mountains, high walls.
Other things to remember
- We say something is high when it is out of our reach or far above the ground:
a high shelf, a high window.
- When using measurements we use tall for people, but usually high for objects:
Steven’s 1m 80cm tall.
The tree is about 20m high
- Things which can be high: fences, walls, mountains, hills, ceilings, clouds.
- Things which can be tall: people, trees, buildings, ladders, animals.
Examples of high and tall in sentences
- How tall is Lionel Messi?
- Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world.
- The prison is surrounded by very high walls and fences.
- Atlas Cedars are tall trees.
BUT The tree is about 30m high
Feel free to use the comments below to write other examples or ask a question. What are the rules in your language – are high and tall used the same way as in English? Is there a difference?