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The absent-minded student put his elbows on the desk and stared/gazed at nothing in particular.

Though I think I have asked the similar questions on stared/gazed before, I still have a lingering question. Are they both fitting in the above and all but identical in meaning? Thanks.
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AngliholicThe absent-minded student put his elbows on the desk and stared/gazed at nothing in particular

Though I think I have asked the similar questions on stared/gazed before, I still have a lingering question. Are they both fitting in the above and all but identical in meaning? Thanks.
Hi again,

Both verbs means focusing one's look at something for a long time with one minor difference; the act of gazing is often done with no realization. That is why gaze fits better with an 'absent-minded' or a 'day-dreaming' student.

Best Regards,
Hoa Thai
Comments  
They basically mean the same thing, but I would use "gaze" for this sentence.

I completely understand what you are trying to say. It's just an unusual pairing of words (stared at nothing). Some people might have a different take on this, but I just think there has to be "something in particular" there when you use "stare" (it doesn't even have to be something tangible).

Stared into eternity, into infinity, into outer space, into the darkness, into oblivion, etc.

If we use "at", then it's more like we're referring to something that's physically there. Stared at the sky, at the sea, at the teacher's skirt, at the board, at his food, etc.
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ArvsworldThey basically mean the same thing, but I would use "gaze" for this sentence. I completely understand what you are trying to say. It's just an unusual pairing of words (stared at nothing). Some people might have a different take on this, but I just think there has to be "something in particular" there when you use "stare" (it doesn't even have to be something tangible). Stared into eternity, into infinity, into outer space, into the darkness, into oblivion, etc. If we use "at", then it's more like we're referring to something that's physically there. Stared at the sky, at the sea, at the teacher's skirt, at the board, at his food, etc.
Thanks, Arvsworld and Hoa.

Your explanations struck a chord with me, and I also thought it should be "gazed at nothing in particular." But the original uses "stare," so I wonder if it's possible that both are all right.
AngliholicYour explanations struck a chord with me, and I also thought it should be "gazed at nothing in particular." But the original uses "stare," so I wonder if it's possible that both are all right.
Hi,

I prefered gazed over stared because of the presence of 'absent-minded'. However, I have no objection about 'staring at nothing'. Here are a couple of examples:

"Her eyes, which stared at nothing, then blinked, told him she was alive." - (BBC) http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/11/a1941211.shtml

"Once there, I stared at nothing for at least two minutes, waiting for my dial-up modem to transmit the contents of the virtual tour" - (New York Times) http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CE4DD143EF935A25750C0A9659C8B63

When one stares at nothing, one fixates but does not consciously register the object(s) that his/her eyes focus on, as in "a mentally-ill patient stared at nothing." Therefore, I would say stared would fit too.
Best Regards,
Hoa Thai
EDIT NOTE: On a second thought, 'gaze w/o realization' could be equated to 'stare at nothing' ! Thus, 'gaze at nothing' might be redundant.Emotion: smile
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Thanks, Hoa.

Roger.