The hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a‐Si:H) thin film transistors (TFTs) with silicon nitride as a gate insulator have been stressed with negative and positive bias to realize the instability mechanisms. It is found that the threshold voltages of the a‐Si:H TFTs are positively shifted under low negative bias stress and then negatively shifted for large negative gate bias. The positive threshold voltage shift is ascribed to the increased states in the band gap near the conduction band by the negative gate bias. As the negative bias continuously increases, the hole trapping in the silicon nitride or at the a‐Si:H/silicon nitride interface will become dominant, resulting in the negative threshold voltage shift. A similar turnaround phenomenon is also observed with respect to the stress time. On the other hand, for the TFTs stressed with positive gate bias, the monotonic increase of the threshold voltage shift with stress time is attributed to the state creation. Nevertheless, the distributions of the created states in the energy band gap for the a‐SiH TFTs after the stress will be affected by the bias polarity based on the defect pool model, reflecting the asymmetrical subthreshold swing change against the positive and negative stress bias. © 1995 American Institute of Physics.