Britain guaranteed Poland

SuprunP

Senior Member
Ukrainian & Russian
On 1 April Britain and France therefore guaranteed Poland, promising to go to war against Germany if she invaded. The guarantee was intended as a trip-wire to deter any future adventures by Hitler, and similar promises were made to Romania and Greece a fortnight later.
(The Storm of War; Andrew Roberts)

Would you be so kind as to tell me what exactly it should mean?

Is it close to the following:

guarantee, v.
1. trans. To be a guarantee, warrant, or surety for; spec. to undertake with respect to (a contract, the performance of a legal act, etc.) that it shall be duly carried out; to make oneself responsible for the genuineness of (an article); hence, to assure the existence or persistence of; to set on a secure basis.
OED


Thanks.
 
  • Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    It means they gave a guarantee to Poland. It's an unusual construction.

    A guarantee most commonly is a promise that if something doesn't perform at a desired level for a certain period, the guarantor will rectify any defects causing substandard performance. Here it's a promise that they would step in if Germany invaded.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The use of guarantee in the OP is non-standard. Normally the direct object of the verb guarantee is whatever is being guaranteed/promised, and the recipient is the indirect object. So, instead of:

    On 1 April Britain and France therefore guaranteed Poland :confused:, promising to go to war against Germany if she invaded.​

    a more usual construction would be:

    On 1 April Britain and France therefore guaranteed [to] Poland that they would go to war against Germany if she invaded.​

    Elsewhere in the book is this reference to the same thing, with guarantee as a noun and Poland clearly the recipient/indirect object:
    Because the British and French Governments, fearful that Germany was about to invade at any moment, had given their guarantee to Poland on 1 April 1939, with the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain promising her ‘all support in the power’ of the Allies should she be attacked…
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Is it close to the following:

    guarantee, v.
    1. trans. To be a guarantee, warrant, or surety for; spec. to undertake with respect to (a contract, the performance of a legal act, etc.) that it shall be duly carried out; to make oneself responsible for the genuineness of (an article); hence, to assure the existence or persistence of; to set on a secure basis.
    OED
    I better like the third meaning in OED:
    3. To secure (a person or thing) against or from (risk, injury, etc.); to secure in (the possession of anything).
    If you google the phrase "Britain and France guaranteed Poland against", there's quite some usages from this context.
     

    Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    "Guarantee" isn't usually used with "from", but yes, there are possible constructions with "against". The usual construction is as suggested by Lingobingo in $5,
    a more usual construction would be:
    On 1 April Britain and France therefore guaranteed [to] Poland that they would go to war against Germany if she invaded.
    or "They gave them a guarantee that they'd [do something]".

    That's why we said
    It's an unusual construction.
    The use of guarantee in the OP is non-standard.
    but it isn't ungrammatical.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Have you ever come across this construction before? In other words, how 'nonstandard' is it for you?
    Normally you guarantee that something will or will not happen, or you guarantee a specific thing, e.g. We guarantee satisfaction / discretion / a no-quibble refund / safe passage to your destination. I have never before come across a statement in which what is guaranteed is a country! It makes even less sense in the passive voice (“Poland was guaranteed”), although something like “Poland was guaranteed protection” would be fine.
     

    SuprunP

    Senior Member
    Ukrainian & Russian
    but it isn't ungrammatical.
    How can you know for sure if this is so 'unusual' and 'nonstandard' that none of us has ever come across this one?
    I do trust Andrew Roberts's command of English, but, as a Russian proverb says, 'trust, but verify'.

    Thanks.
     

    AnythingGoes

    Senior Member
    English - USA (Midwest/Appalachia)
    I wonder if this might be specialized usage in diplomacy. Fields develop their own jargon which often uses familiar words in different ways.
     

    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    I do trust Andrew Roberts's command of English, but, as a Russian proverb says, 'trust, but verify'.
    Good philosophy!

    I read it in an extended sense of "they guaranteed the existence of Poland (as an independent country)", similar to a security guard who might say "I guarantee security (around here)". Considering that Austria and Czechoslovakia disappeared off the map once Hitler marched in, it makes sense. It was to be expected that Hitler would try the same thing elsewhere.
    I agree that it's non-standard usage -- particularly in this case since that promise, let alone guarantee, did not seem to hold when Hitler attacked.
     

    Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    How can you know for sure if this is so 'unusual' and 'nonstandard' that none of us has ever come across this one?
    That's my opinion. In any case grammar and usage are different things. If something is unusual or nonstandard, that doesn't mean it can't be grammatical.
     

    SuprunP

    Senior Member
    Ukrainian & Russian
    That's my opinion. In any case grammar and usage are different things. If something is unusual or nonstandard, that doesn't mean it can't be grammatical.
    Nor does it necessarily mean it should be grammatical, of course, unless we've got some proof of one or the other being the case.
     

    Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    Nor does it necessarily mean it should be grammatical, of course, unless we've got some proof of one or the other being the case.
    I don't see what point you're trying to make. What do you mean by "proof"? :confused: We can't give you a line from a grammar book saying that sentence is grammatical. English grammar is based more on conventions than rules, and you often see a lot of unconventional writing that plays around with regular grammar. People can only give you their opinions and it's up to you to decide what you want to make of them. None of the five or so people who've answered have said it's ungrammatical, though I see Velisarius feels it's sloppy, so that should give you an idea.
     
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    SuprunP

    Senior Member
    Ukrainian & Russian
    None of the five or so people who've answered have said it's ungrammatical
    And only one of them has positively said it is.

    We can't give you a line from a grammar book saying that sentence is grammatical. English grammar is based more on conventions than rules.
    How come you can't? Grammar books are a collection of these 'conventions', aren't they? But in this case, since we're talking about just one particular word, a similar example from a reputable dictionary or corpus should be enough. After all, if there's a convention out there to use this word in such a way there must be more than one instance of this usage, must there not?

    Thanks.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It’s grammatical in the sense that the verb guarantee can take a direct object (which needs to be a noun or noun clause/phrase) and Poland is a proper noun. But being grammatical and making sense are two different things, as is constantly being pointed out on this forum.

    The sentence should have been edited, for example to say “gave Poland a guarantee”. As I quoted in #5, it’s expressed in the normal way elsewhere in the book:

    … the British and French Governments, fearful that Germany was about to invade at any moment, had given their guarantee to Poland on 1 April 1939…
     

    SuprunP

    Senior Member
    Ukrainian & Russian
    But being grammatical and making sense are two different things
    Indeed, but I considered Barque's comment about its being grammatical to be inextricably linked to its not being semantically nonsensical. Otherwise, what would be the point of pointing it out here? 'Colorless green ideas sleep furiously' is also grammatically correct, but knowing it doesn't really help us establish to what actual extent it is 'nonstandard' or 'unusual'.

    In any case, the point I made about conventions, dictionaries and corpora still stands; and I have an eerie feeling that one might find more instances of 'colorless green ideas sleep furiously' out there than 'to guarantee [a country]'.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    [Response to deleted post removed. DonnyB - moderator]
    Official Report of Debates, Council of Europe: ... to guarantee Poland against Russia,
     
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    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I found a whole lot more than 10 results after clicking on the phrase at the bottom of the Ngrams (my iPad Safari has a "More results" button at the bottom and there are pages and pages. Some can be excluded "... guarantee Poland's borders." or "guaratee Poland against..." and the like but many are simply as in the OP.
     
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    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    A few examples found for Belgium as well. Here's one:

    Belgian attempts at extending an Anglo-American guarantee of France to cover Belgium as well also foundered due to British reluctance to guarantee Belgium and the American Senate's desire to withdraw from Europe.

    Belgium's Dilemma
     

    SuprunP

    Senior Member
    Ukrainian & Russian
    Official Report of Debates, Council of Europe: ... to guarantee Poland against Russia
    This one, I'd argue, is a tad different, since it has even found its place in OED:

    guarantee, v.
    3. To secure (a person or thing) against or from (risk, injury, etc.); to secure in (the possession of anything).
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    As I'm sure you know, terms like "a few", "several", and "many" are not very precise. When I search for an uncommon phrase, I'm happy to find about a dozen solid examples from good sources. I was expecting to find even fewer than I did:).

    "Not a few" normally means "a considerable number". Okay, I exaggerated. Shoot me:D.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    OED:
    1. a. transitive. To be a guarantee, warrant, or surety for; spec. to undertake with respect to (a contract, the performance of a legal act, etc.) that it shall be duly carried out; to make oneself responsible for the genuineness of (an article); hence, to assure the existence or persistence of; to set on a secure basis.

    1866 C. Kingsley Hereward the Wake I. xvii. 315 If he would but guarantee the Danish laws..to all north of the Watling street.
     

    Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    I considered Barque's comment about its being grammatical to be inextricably linked to its not being semantically nonsensical. Otherwise, what would be the point of pointing it out here? '
    There doesn't have to be such a link, as your "colourless green ideas" sentence shows. My point was that though it wasn't a standard construction, it could still work. Many non-standard constructions don't.
    And only one of them has positively said it is.
    Believe me, if someone thought it was really ungrammatical (and I'm sure this thread has been read by far more members than have posted on it), they'd have pointed it out.:D
    After all, if there's a convention out there to use this word in such a way there must be more than one instance of this usage, must there not?
    Yes. But this use isn't conventional.
    'Colorless green ideas sleep furiously' is also grammatically correct, but knowing it doesn't really help us establish to what actual extent it is 'nonstandard' or 'unusual'.
    It's an unusual sentence because it doesn't make sense. Your OP sentence makes sense; it's only the construction that's unusual.

    On 1 April Britain and France therefore guaranteed Poland, promising to go to war against Germany if she invaded.
    To put it in more conventional terms: On 1 April Britain and France therefore guaranteed gave a guarantee to Poland, promising to go to war against Germany if she invaded.
     
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    SuprunP

    Senior Member
    Ukrainian & Russian
    There was a certain document called Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, 1994 in which we can find the following:

    1. The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine, in accordance with the principles of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.

    2. The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, and that none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine except in self-defence or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations;

    I wonder whether it would be safe to say that they 'guaranteed Ukraine' (in case someone decides to write a book on it in the future)?

    Thanks.
     

    AnythingGoes

    Senior Member
    English - USA (Midwest/Appalachia)
    I wonder whether it would be safe to say that they 'guaranteed Ukraine' (in case someone decides to write a book on it in the future)?
    Given that it's the same sentence we've been discussing except for the name of the country, it should be obvious that this would be an unconventional way to express the idea.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I wonder whether it would be safe to say that they 'guaranteed Ukraine' (in case someone decides to write a book on it in the future)?
    I cannot see anything in these two statements that give anything remotely like a guarantee, in the context of your original post and the other examples in this thread where the same construction is used.

    Sentence (1) does not say that any of the countries will do anything.
    Sentence (2) says that these countries will not attack Ukraine, except in some specified circumstances.

    There is nothing to say that any of the other countries would intervene if Ukraine were attacked, which I think is the essence of this form of "guarantee". Compare the language in the Budapest Memorandum with that used by the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain when he announced the Anglo-Polish alliance to Parliament in 1939:
    ... in the event of any action which clearly threatened Polish independence, and which the Polish Government accordingly considered it vital to resist with their national forces, His Majesty's Government would feel themselves bound at once to lend the Polish Government all support in their power. They have given the Polish Government an assurance to this effect​
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    On 1 April Britain and France therefore guaranteed Poland, promising to go to war against Germany if she invaded.
    The essence here is that if Poland were invaded, France and Britain would fight an aggressor to re-establish the status quo ante, i.e. undo the damage. This was a defence pact. This was the guarantee that Britain and France gave to Poland.

    As Uncle Jack points out, Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, 1994 is a non-aggression pact.
     
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