Steady! Slow down and digest Tim Bowen’s latest article on word grammar.

The word steady functions as an adjective, a verb and occasionally as an adverb and an interjection. In the latter category, it is used to warn someone or to tell them to be careful, as in ‘Steady! You almost ran into me!’ In British English, the expression steady on is used for telling someone you do not approve of what they are saying, as in ‘Steady on, Karen. That’s my boyfriend you’re talking about!’.

As an adverb, steady is used in the expression to go steady (with someone), meaning to be in a romantic relationship with someone for a long period of time, as in ‘They’ve been going steady for six months now’ or ‘Annie’s been going steady with Mike since last September’.

As a verb, steady can be either transitive or intransitive. If you steady the ship, you restore calm after a turbulent period, especially for an organization or a government, as in ‘After six months of turmoil on the markets, the latest measures seem to be steadying the ship’. If you steady your nerves, you stop yourself from feeling nervous, as in ‘She took a few deep breaths to steady her nerves’.

Used as an intransitive verb, steady can be used to mean stabilize, as in ‘The value of their currency has now steadied’ or ‘Oil prices have steadied after several days of turbulence’.

Apart from the more common adjectival meanings of firm, gradually developing and not changing, steady can also be used to mean ‘lasting a long time’, as in ‘She’s been in a steady relationship for a year now’ or ‘Music provides him with a steady income’.