Area in front of a building entrance: forecourt?

dan417

New Member
German
Dear all,

when a building, such as a library, a school or a town hall, has a place to gather in front of / outside the entrance, would a native speaker use "forecourt"? I am asking because I've never seen that word in maps of or on signs at such places.

I have searched for sentences containing "forecourt", and I've found it used with petrol stations as well as "majestic" buildings such as temples, but not much else on websites based in native-English-speaking countries. Most of my results with "forecourt" are English texts on websites whose native tounge isn't English.

(If it were made of grass, I'd simply use "front lawn" for that area; if it were surrounded by that building I'd use "courtyard"...)

Thank you very much!

Dan
 
  • Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I'd say the term is pretty common in the UK. I suppose you come across it most often in the context of petrol stations, but other buildings can certainly have forecourts. Here's a picture of a railway station forecourt:

    1632337341239.png
     

    Tegs

    Mód ar líne
    English (Ireland)
    when a building, such as a library, a school or a town hall, has a place to gather in front of / outside the entrance, would a native speaker use "forecourt"?
    No. On signs explaining the protocol for when there is a fire, you'll see things like "gather at the front of the building". A forecourt is in a petrol station.
     

    LVRBC

    Senior Member
    English-US, standard and medical
    I think architects use it but most other people don't, in the US.
     

    Tegs

    Mód ar líne
    English (Ireland)
    I'd say the term is pretty common in the UK. I suppose you come across it most often in the context of petrol stations, but other buidlings can certainly have forecourts. Here's a picture of a railway station forecourt:

    View attachment 62175
    That looks like Chester railway station :D I wouldn't tell my friends to "meet me in the forecourt". I'd say "meet me at the entrance to the station/ in front of the station". It might be a common term in that most people will have heard of it, but would you really use it in a sentence like "meet me in the railway forecourt"?
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    That looks like Chester railway station :D I wouldn't tell my friends to "meet me in the forecourt". I'd say "meet me at the entrance to the station/ in front of the station". It might be a common term in that most people will have heard of it, but would you really use it in a sentence like "meet me in the railway forecourt"?
    Well, I'd probably be more specific, certainly. But it really doesn't seem like a specialised or unusual word to me - I'm intrigued that it does to you.
    (It's Exeter Central;).)
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    It's definitely BE and station and garage are the most common words before it. The graph is from the BE Ngram database. The AE chart is almost identical, and I suspect it's the ever-present problem of misclassififation of source texts :(
    7C73DDB7-0C32-4B48-A79B-AFE99DD429A4.png
     

    Tegs

    Mód ar líne
    English (Ireland)
    it really doesn't seem like a specialised or unusual word to me - I'm intrigued that it does to you.
    (It's Exeter Central;).)
    Well I wouldn't say it's unusual, but I do associate it pretty much exclusively with petrol stations, so I suppose yes to specialised :) (Thanks! Never been to Exeter! :D)
     

    Wordy McWordface

    Senior Member
    English - SSBE Standard British
    Vehicle access seems to be the key feature here. Forecourts are open and level with the road. The station forecourt is (at least close to) where taxis etc can pick up and drop off passengers. You drive on and off garage forecourts to buy petrol. Car dealerships display vehicles on their forecourts because it's easy to drive on and off them.
     
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    Wordy McWordface

    Senior Member
    English - SSBE Standard British
    Synecdoche Corner:

    In BrE, we often use the word 'forecourt' as a device to represent car dealerships in general e.g. 'driving off the forecourt' is used to refer to the first moment of vehicle ownership. Discussions about the pros and cons of buying brand new cars usually include a comment along the lines of: "Did you know? A new car loses 20% of its value as soon as it leaves the forecourt".
     
    Last edited:

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    We say "as soon as it leaves the lot".

    lot
    4. a distinct piece of land: a building lot.

    It could be a used car lot or a new car lot.
     

    dan417

    New Member
    German
    Wow. I did not expect so many replies.

    I'm trying to sum up the replies (might be useful for anyone stumbling upon the same word who doesn't want to read each individual reply):

    In American English, forecourt is not used.

    In British English the word is common, although not everone would use it in everyday language (unless in the context of petrol stations).

    Due to its usage for petrol stations and car dealerships, forecourt seems more common for an area in front of a building that provides access to vehicles.

    Thanks for all of your replies here.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    In AE - not generally used in everyday language. Used in more specialized contexts. A temple might have a forecourt.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I didn't find an AE temple, but I did find a castle:
    REGAL LIKE ROYALTY Imagine your guests arriving at Disneyland® park for the most romantic, most regal wedding in all the land: yours! At the ultra-exclusive Sleeping Beauty Castle Forecourt, you'll feel like royalty while creating memories that will last a lifetime.

    Ahhh!❤️❤️❤️
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    So the Ngram plot in #10 might include authentic (as opposed to misclassified) AE examples for temple :)
    There are 96 examples in the COCA American English database but a quick glance shows that more than just a couple seem to be misclassified BE.

    "Toff parks on the forecourt next to three other council utes"
    "On the forecourt of the BBC's newly revamped central London headquarters, BBC journalists are jostling for..."
    "Years ago in Britain newspapers and their wholesalers banned petrol station forecourt shops and supermarkets..."
    "...and the bell from the forecourt rang, someone waiting there for petrol."

    Who's to say what's accurate. But I think it's quite fair to say the phrase "gas station forecourt (shops)" will never be used in AE by anyone throughout 2021.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    For me, a forecourt suggests I'm watching Wimbledon (and I don't watch much tennis).

    4388-034-28338219.gif
     

    Wordy McWordface

    Senior Member
    English - SSBE Standard British
    Just to add that there's a crisis going on with supplies to the UK's petrol stations at the moment, and this is one of the leading items in the news. As a result, every single one of last night's news reports contained the word 'forecourt', often repeated several times. This seems to prove what a key word 'forecourt' is in the BrE lexicon (at least in the context of motoring).
     
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    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I'm still confused. This is a typical U.S. gas station.
    636274999763308173-gas-station.jpg


    There are only two areas. There are the pumps, under the "awning", and there is the building. The building is the convenience store that houses the cash registers where you pay for gas if you don't pay with a card at the pump and where you can buy whatever else they sell - drinks, snacks, a newspaper, cigarettes, a few standard grocery items, a few auto supplies, lottery tickets, etc.

    From what you said above, it seems the forecourt is the area the pumps are. If that's true, why is it a forecourt shop, since it's specifically in a building away from the pumps?
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    From what you said above, it seems the forecourt is the area the pumps are. If that's true, why is it a forecourt shop, since it's specifically in a building away from the pumps?
    If that was in Britain, the forecourt there would be the entire paved surface in front of the building. It's a forecourt shop because it is the shop that has the forecourt in front of it.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    This is the main entrance to my old high school. I guess it would qualify as a forecourt, but in my entire time there I never heard anyone call it that. We said, "I'll meet you at the main entrance."

    East_Meadow_High_School_New_York.jpg
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    It's definitely BE and station and garage are the most common words before it. The graph is from the BE Ngram database. The AE chart is almost identical, and I suspect it's the ever-present problem of misclassififation of source texts :(
    View attachment 62176
    When I said the AE version is "identical", it was referring to the words and their frequency order. I should have noted that the word is about ten times more "frequent" in BE than in AE (and even that is very likely due to the misclassification in the database). As mentioned many times, it is BE, not AE, so it's not surprising that this is a learning experience for our AE speaking members :)
     

    Wordy McWordface

    Senior Member
    English - SSBE Standard British
    Thank you for the BBC update, JulianStuart

    Yet more evidence that Britain is falling apart post-Brexit and that 'forecourt' is indeed an essential feature of our vocabulary.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Does that mean those forecourts aren't going anywhere, if they are out of fuel? ;)

    Curiously, my phone autocorrect recognizes forecourt but not forecourts.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Sounds like a bris for a tennis court. It is nothing I would expect to hear in American English.
     
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