be seated vs be sat

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Xander2024

Senior Member
Russian
Hello everyone,

Do the natives here see any difference between the two constructions:

They were sat at a table.
They were seated at a table.

I came across the first one more than once while reading an American movie script. Are they interchangeable?

Thank you so much:)
 
  • Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    First impressions:
    They were sat at a table. (Someone told them to sit at a table.)
    They were seated at a table. (They were seated at a table.)

    It is barely possible in my world that #1 can mean #2, but it would depend on what era or mood it was said in.
     

    Xander2024

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Yes, Copyright, "They were sat at a table" does sound like they were made to sit at a table, but as far as I can remember, there was no compulsion whatsoever. The "they" were a mafia family:)

    Thank you.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    Of course the real meaning depends on more than my personal preferences -- such as the author's. :) If by "sat" the author obviously means "were seated," I would be happy enough to accept that. Especially if they're in the Mafia. :D
     
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    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese

    Xander2024

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I'm sure it was a movie script. But as most of the scripts I read are of "Hollywood origin" I presumed it was an American one. Now that you've said it is British usage, a kind of suspicion is creeping in...:D

    Thank you so much, Natkretep.
     

    pob14

    Senior Member
    American English
    I don't represent all of the US, but I think "they were sat at a table" is ungrammatical. Regional dialect, perhaps: "they were sat at a table, then they et their supper." But certainly not standard.
     

    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Hi everyone,

    the following sentence's been written by a native speaker of English who comes from Manchester:

    I will be sat outside the Irish Pub.

    I was a bit surprised on reading this sentence, because normally I'd expect 'I will be sitting outside the Donkey pub at 8 am...'.
    Is 'will be sat' a regional form, one that is commonly found in that part of England? Would you write it off as incorrect, or just regional?
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Dreamlike, I've merged your thread (post 11) with an earlier thread, and there are some relevant links in post 6.

    I don't think this is specifically Manchester. I've heard it in many varieties of BrE.
     

    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Thanks, Nat. I have looked for previous treads, but to little avail. In any case, none of the linked threads discusses this usage of 'sat' in the future tense... I suppose you don't find it to be any more strange than saying 'We were sat...', do you?
     
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    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    There are many, including me, who wouldn't use sat for sitting in expressions like They were sitting at a table, regarding it as excessively colloquial.

    I've heard it often enough.
     

    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Well, it comes as a relief to read such an opinion at last, so far I've only seen people speak highly of it... Some in previous threads called it 'a stylistic variation', that's very convenient, but to me it's more of a thing that people blurt in rapid speech. I've also seen some trying to make a case for it, saying that it makes grammatical sense to say so, mentioning 'a state of sitting'... well, let me just say that it's hardly convincing to me.

    All that does not alter the fact that folk use it a lot (from what I read) and will continue to do so.
     

    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    That's very generous of you, DL.
    Thanks, but I'm just stating the facts, not giving my permission (who am I to give or not one? Last time I checked I wasn't at the helm of the governing body of the English language). :D In my experience, substandard forms such as 'be sat' have a great appeal to people. Some call it vivid language.
     

    skymouse

    Member
    English - London
    I've heard some British English speakers say to be sat at, and it seems to be a regional variation of to be sitting at (apparently with no passive meaning).

    Incidentally, in some contexts be seated means sit, for example in some very formal or ritualistic situations you might say "please be seated" instead of "please sit [down]".
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I found this usage note in the Oxford Dictionaries site:
    In sentences such as we were sat there for hours the use of the past participle sat with the verb ‘to be’ is informal and not part of standard English. Originally only in dialect, it is now common in British (though not US) English. Standard English uses the present participle sitting in similar contexts, as in we were sitting there for hours.
    And yes non-standard hugely preferred to sub-standard​.
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Apparently there was a character in 'Coronation Street' (which takes us back to the Manchester of post 11 .... all right, Salford, not Manchester, but it's right next door) who said, I was sat sitting there. :eek: File under "Even more subnonstandard than I was sat there" (which I have been known to say, I admit) or just forget you ever read this.
     
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    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Funnily enough, having posted in this thread yesterday afternoon, I came across this sentence today in a Patrick O'Brian novel:

    Behind the green door and some floors up Stephen and Mr Florey were already sat down to a haphazard meal, spread wherever there was room on odd tables and chairs.
    Master & Commander Chapter 11.

    This doesn't mean that they were already sitting down, of course, because that could mean they were in the act of assuming the posture. I think this is a genuine past participle, and the villain, if there is one here, is the main verb.
     

    Pavielpetrovich

    Member
    English - US
    "To sit" is an intransitive verb, meaning that you can't sit someone, and you can't be sat by someone. Thus, "They were sat" is gramatically incorrect.

    "To seat" is a transitive verb meaning "to put in a seat," so you can seat someone, and you can be seated by someone. "They were seated" is therefore gramatically correct.
     

    Xander2024

    Senior Member
    Russian
    "To sit" is an intransitive verb, meaning that you can't sit someone, and you can't be sat by someone. Thus, "They were sat" is gramatically incorrect.
    You'll probably be surprised if you decide to consult the WRF dictionary and type in "sit". Because Nr 2 reads as follows: 2. (transitive) to cause to adopt such a posture
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    In my experience, substandard forms such as 'be sat' have a great appeal to people. Some call it vivid language.
    Dreamlike, that sounds a bit pompous!:eek:

    "[Be] sat" is common in many varieties of BrE, even if it's not 'standard'.
     
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    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Are there any British speakers who would use "She was sitting on the sofa" and "She was sat on the sofa" under different circumstances, all other factors being equal (for example speaking in the same informal tone to a group of friends). I'm wondering whether there are nuances of attitude or meaning.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Are there any British speakers who would use "She was sitting on the sofa" and "She was sat on the sofa" under different circumstances, all other factors being equal (for example speaking in the same informal tone to a group of friends). I'm wondering whether there are nuances of attitude or meaning.
    Not sure - you might hear it from a politician trying to sound more proletarian.
     

    Lazzini

    Senior Member
    If we consider "I was sat" to be a correct alternative form of "I was sitting", why not "I was walked along the road" instead of "I was walking ...",&nbsp; "I was bought ..." instaed of "I was buying ..." etc. ?
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    If we consider "I was sat" to be a correct alternative form of "I was sitting", why not "I was walked along the road" instead of "I was walking ...",&nbsp; "I was bought ..." instaed of "I was buying ..." etc. ?
    Hi Lazzini,

    Language isn't like that, but I take your point.

    Forgive me for seeming prying, but I suspect you're using IE as your browser. I suspect also that you'd not experience problems of formatting if you used Firefox instead. I downloaded the other browser and those formatting problems disappeared.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    This doesn't mean that they were already sitting down, of course, because that could mean they were in the act of assuming the posture. I think this is a genuine past participle, and the villain, if there is one here, is the main verb.
    Could you elaborate, Mr T ~ I don't see what you mean:)
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    I was taught at an early stage in my education that 'to be sat (at a table etc.)' was incorrect and vulgar.
    The correct form instead of 'sat' in such contexts is 'seated'. 'Sat' is correct as the active past participle, but not the passive past participle.
    'To be sitting' is also correct English, but is different in meaning.

    Imagine my shock at reading in the press a statement by a judge (a former classmate of mine) that the convicted man was 'the rotten apple sat in the Revenue'.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Here goes, Mr E:

    It reads - Behind the green door and some floors up Stephen and Mr Florey were already sat down to a haphazard meal, spread wherever there was room on odd tables and chairs.

    Had it read - Behind the green door and some floors up Stephen and Mr Florey were already sitting down to a haphazard meal, spread wherever there was room on odd tables and chairs, I would have taken that to mean that they were in the act of taking their chairs.

    The original, were sat down..., means they were seated.

    I think some people might have expected had sat down here, hence my point about the verb being 'the villain'.

    I was making the point that some people, and I'm one of them, aren't very happy to say they were sat eating, but are happy with they were sat down eating, or, with a quite different sense of course, they had sat down. Strange isn't it.
     

    Einstein

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    I see "sat" in these cases as a regional variation. I don't think I've heard it in my region (SE), but I find it perfectly acceptable.
    If we consider "I was sat" to be a correct alternative form of "I was sitting", why not "I was walked along the road" instead of "I was walking ...",&nbsp; "I was bought ..." instead of "I was buying ..." etc. ?
    I don't see any analogy between "I was sitting" and "I was buying". The object in the shop was bought, I wasn't. But we can say "I sat my child on the green chair", so that he was "sat" there, as a passive. By extension "to be sat" means also "to be in a sitting position".
     

    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Dreamlike, that sounds a bit pompous!:eek:
    Sorry, that wasn't my intention. I just much prefer standard English to its regional variations, which, I must say, have a certain appeal, because they show how diverse English is, but can be quite confusing... for instance, when I first thought 'We were sat a...t' I thought 'Who made you seat there? Whose decision it was?'. I didn't take it to simply mean 'We were sitting at...'.
     
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    Amber_1010

    Senior Member
    Chinese-Cantonese
    Hello!

    This has bothered me for so long.
    I have heard British people say "I'm sat here.' when they actually mean "I'm sitting here.'
    Like, in a song, Drunk, by ed sheeran, it says 'I'm sat here wishing I was soberI know I'll never hold you like I used to.'

    I think it should be 'sitting' instead of 'sat'.
    I have a British friend, and he once said 'I have been to this park before. I was sat there (he pointed to a chair.)
    Again, same problem here.

    Is it a mistake?
    But I have heard a guy say native speakers use the passive form in a unusual way to create a distance. I have posted a thread about it. Here's the link:
    http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=2746215

    But I am guessing it has nothing to do with that. We don't use the passive in that way, that wrong way, do we?
    Thanks for telling me what you think.
     

    Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    No, it's not a passive voice. No-one positioned the speaker on that chair in the park.

    They were simply sitting there, and this is probably what they should have said, because I'm sure it's what they meant.

    I think it's an aberrant (BrE?) grammatical form, but one that's so prevalent that I'm sure it must have its own name. I look forward to learning it.
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    It's an idiomatic use of "sat" instead of "seated" which I'd have said was fairly common in BE colloquial usage - I've even heard it said as "We were sat sitting there...." in fact.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Moderator note: I have merged Amber's thread (from post 43) with an earlier thread on the same question. Please read the earlier posts. Post 6 and Loob's post above also points to other threads on this question. To be sat is now fairly well established in (informal) BrE.
     
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