How tall is that building?

# How tall is that building?

0

How tall is that building?

or

How high is that building?

5373 views
updated DIC 7, 2009
posted by nila45

6

Either would be fine...my personal preference is with "how tall is that building," but I can't see anything wrong with saying it either way.

One additional note: While high can generally be used synonymously with tall, one situation where you would not be able to substitute "high" for "tall" is when you are referring to people

How high is that person [wrong]

How tall is that person [correct]

How tall/high is that bridge/building/house/mountain/etc [correct]

Also remember that while "high" is often synonymous with "tall," there are instances where "tall" would not be interchangeable with "high" either. In instances where the actual height refers to a variable condition, you would not use "tall;" instead, you would use "high." For example, a bird flying in the sky is "high" in the air and not "tall" in the air. This is because it is not relating to the inherent height (or tallness) of the bird itself but to a transitory condition relating to the ground. Here's one final example to illustrate the difference. Suppose that you are looking at a hot air balloon:

If you were to say, "How tall is that balloon," it would immediately be apparent that you were asking about the actual physical dimensions of the balloon itself. If the balloon were up in the air; however, you would say, "how high is that balloon" to refer to how high above the ground the balloon is floating. If you used, "high" to mean how "tall" it were in this situation then it would become ambiguous and so this is why "tall" is usually the preferred choice when dealing with the actual physical stature of an object. In this case, if you were to use "high" to refer to the actual physical stature of the balloon, it would likely be interpreted incorrectly by the listener to mean that you want to know how high above the ground the balloon has risen.

Again, for most cases of stationary objects, this is not a problem, but for cases where the object is or has the capability of varying its distance from the earth (for example: a balloon/a helicopter/plane/etc), the two words are usually not interchangeable unless the object is also on the ground. In any case, I hope that this shows you why "tall" is often preferred when dealing with the actual physical stature of an object.

I think that a general rule might be (and I am sure someone will correct me if I am wrong) that the "tallness" of an object refers to the physical dimensions of an object to describe how far the top of the object is from the base of the object; whereas, the "height" of an object refers to the distance of the object from the ground, so that if the object is resting on the ground, the words tall and high become somewhat synonymous (as the height refers to how far the top of the object is from the ground, i.e. base of the object), but if the object is not resting on the ground then the word high refers to the actual distance the object is from the ground.

Does this make sense to you?

updated DIC 6, 2009
edited by Izanoni1
posted by Izanoni1
Good explanation - 00f2b5a1, DIC 6, 2009
2

The discussion in the link that you provided is interesting but, I think, misleading. Under normal circumstances, the height/tallness of a mountain is of interest insofar as it reflects the difficulty of scaling said mountain. For the most part there are two considerations that are of interest to mountain climbers: elevation above the base (on the assumption that one can motor/take pack animals to the base but must walk/climb from there) and the elevation above sea level (because it relates to the difficulty of breathing).

That Mauna Kea's elevation from its base is greater than Everest's is interesting but irrelevant (for climbers) since no one is going to go 20,000 feet underwater is order to begin the ascent from the base.

updated DIC 7, 2009
edited by samdie
posted by samdie
That too is an interesting take Samdie...I think that both the information on the link and the idea as it pertains to mountain climbing are bothe extremely specific/specialized uses of the word. - Izanoni1, DIC 6, 2009
So do I but unless one simply likes to memorize statistics, I think the discussion in Nila's link is not a useful guide to normal speech. - samdie, DIC 6, 2009
1
vote

Then, is a mountain high or tall?

Either one will work, and mean the same thing. That is when referring to how high a mountain reaches, measured from the base of the mountain to its tallest or highest peak, you could say either:

How high is that mountain/How tall is that mountain.

Here they would be interchangeable

In regards to there usage:

There might be some subtle differences in the feeling/color/connotation conveyed by the words when relating to imagery that may come to mind and especially in more poetic contexts that emphasize the difference by changing up the word order, for example:

1). I've never seen a mountain as high as this mountain was/I've never yet met a mountain that soared so high. - Might make you think more of the peaks of the mountains and how high in the sky they are, how high the mountains soar.

2). I've never seen a mountain as tall as this mountain was/I've never yet met a mountain that stood so tall. - Might make you consider the mountain in its entirety, from the base to the peak, the stature of the mountain so to speak.

Of course this last part is somewhat speculative on my part as the imagery inherent to a piece of writing is often as much a product of the writer's own experiences as it is the reader's. To my mind though, the two words do carry a slightly different connotation even though they can be used, often interchangeably, to denote the same idea.

updated DIC 7, 2009
edited by Izanoni1
posted by Izanoni1
1
vote

updated DIC 6, 2009
edited by nila45
posted by nila45
Interesting - Izanoni1, DIC 6, 2009
1
vote

They're interchangeable in this context - that is, for a building or something with it's base on the ground, like a tree, or a telephone mast.

However, you would always use "high" for something that's not directly connected to the ground - like a kite for example.

updated DIC 6, 2009
posted by sheila-foster
You wrote: "something with it's base...?" Did you mean, Sheila, to write: "its base?" (Sorry! That common error just drives me batty!) - 0057ed01, DIC 6, 2009
As high as a kite - under the influence of narcotics? - 00f2b5a1, DIC 6, 2009
I wondered why "kite" came instantly to mind as an example of "high"! - sheila-foster, DIC 6, 2009
Pink Floyd! - sunshinzmommie, DIC 6, 2009
0

To contrast a litle, I would like to add a text that I took from somewhere. Does it have anything to do with the difference between "high" and "tall"?. It is translated into English by me. I hope it is correct.

Regarding" tall" and" high" there are opinions opposing, several theories and no rules. It is one of those things that one learns how to use with the time and one will never know reason, even for the native English-speakers. But I will try to explain to you some things:

TALL: one refers to something that is tall - tall in absolute or relative form to other things of their species, one refers to material objects, never to abstract forms. One only refers to size.

HIGH: one refers to something that is high and also to something that has a high ubication. It can refer to size or position and always in absolute form. With which, depending on the context, one can say "Tall building" if you are talking of a building surrounded by others in a city, a building that stands out for their height in comparison with others. Or you can say" High building" if you refer to their height in absolute form.

I wanted to know your opinions.

updated DIC 7, 2009
edited by nila45
posted by nila45
0

¿Qué es la estatura de ese (aquel) edificio?

updated DIC 6, 2009
edited by 005faa61
posted by 005faa61
Perdón, nila45. No había dado cuenta cuando puse mi respuesta que el español es su idioma nativo. Que tarugo soy ¿verdad? - 005faa61, DIC 6, 2009
0

Then, is a mountain high or tall?

updated DIC 6, 2009
posted by nila45
0

delete

updated DIC 6, 2009
edited by --Mariana--
posted by iamspanish
Why did you just copy and paste Izan's answer...? - Nick-Cortina, DIC 6, 2009
I'm not sure what he's up to taking Izan's answer, but I deleted it. - --Mariana--, DIC 6, 2009
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