Garden or yard?

< Previous | Next >

dianadc2103

Member
Italian
Hello Everybody!

This is my first post in the English Only forum... I wanted to ask you a question referring to the usage of the terms "garden" and "yard". I have always used "garden" to describe a green area around my house, with a cobbled area, a lawn, many trees and lots of flowers around. Moreover, I saw on TV many animated children's songs entitled "In the garden", "I go down to the garden" etc. describing that kind of "garden". I am also familiar with the word "yard", especially when used to describe a back/front yard, but I thought it was is usually associated with a paved or cobbled area or a small lawn in the front/back of the house.
Well, my firm beliefs shattered yesterday, when an American friend of mine (from Connecticut) told me that in the USA they use the word "garden" only to describe a vegetable garden, otherwise they call it a "yard". The WR says that "garden" can both refer to a plot for growing vegetables and flowers. So now I am lost. Can anyone throw light on that? How are those two words actually used? Is my garden a "garden" or a "yard"? Is there maybe a difference between BE and AE ?

Thanks in advance for your help!
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Yes, this is a BE/AE thing. For all of us, the group of beds of soil containing flowers is a garden. But as a major part of the land a house sits on (which may contain several gardens in the first sense, among other things), in BrE we have a front garden and back garden, whereas in AmE they're a front yard and a back yard.

    For me, a garden (in the first sense, at least) contains flowers. If it had no flowers, only vegetables, it would be a vegetable garden, not a garden.
     

    Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    Welcome to EO, dianadc2103! :)

    > Is there maybe a difference between BE and AE ?

    There may be, let's wait and see. I'm with you on gardens, and for me, a yard would need to paved over. :) (Cross-posted)
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Your childhood experience is similar to standard British usage.

    As a child, my house had a back yard (floored with bricks or stone slabs) and also a back garden (grass, flower-beds, trees). The AE usage where yard = flower garden seems quite alien; though I've grown used to hearing it on film, I would never use it.

    As for the vegetable area, in Britain this is a vegetable garden or (smaller) a kitchen garden or (away from the house, usually provided by the local authority) an allotment.
     

    dianadc2103

    Member
    Italian
    Thanks a lot for your prompt responses (and your welcome, Beryl!)! The problem is that my mother was American (and I think she never used the word "yard") so I basically speak AE ... but, here in Italy, at school they usually teach BE: that's why I'm sometimes confused, especially now that I am teaching English to my two little ones ... nappy or diaper? trousers or pants? And now: garden or yard? Moreover,, if "garden" is not used in the USA meaning a green area with flower-beds and trees, how come they have beautiful parks called "gardens" like i.e. the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco, CA? I wish I could also get the contribution of an AE mother tongue on this! Thanks again for your help, this forum is awesome!
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    We do, indeed :), use "garden" as in "meaning a green area with flower-beds and trees"

    The difference comes when referring to the area around a house, which we call a front or back "yard."

    The yard might or might not contain a garden. Depending upon the nature of the occupants of the home, a "yard" might contain nothing but junk. (a condition encountered occasionally in the U.S., but something I never observed in the U.K.)

    See: www.duckswild.com/junk1.jpg for an example.
    :D

     
    Last edited:

    bluegiraffe

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Depending upon the nature of the occupants, a "yard" might contain nothing but junk. (a condition all too common in the U.S., but something I never observed in the U.K.)

    See: www.duckswild.com/junk1.jpg for an example.
    Come round and see my next-door neighbours... unfortunately their yard is full of junk. I use the word yard as my back garden has no grass, flowers or anything growing at all. It is a small concrete area. Sometimes I call it a yard, sometimes a garden. If it had grass, I would not call it a yard.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Come round and see my next-door neighbours... unfortunately their yard is full of junk. I use the word yard as my back garden has no grass, flowers or anything growing at all. It is a small concrete area. Sometimes I call it a yard, sometimes a garden. If it had grass, I would not call it a yard.
    I have bolded what I think is the key difference in usage in the AE BE forms. In AE and BE, there may be many things referred to, singly or in combination, as "garden" - formal, tea, vegetable, flower, rose etc. However, in BE there is only one thing that qualifies as a yard - paved, cobbled, gravel etc., but NO vegetation (except perhaps weeds between stones or pavers).
     

    stormie

    New Member
    English - USA
    This is a UK/US thing. I would say "I have a vegetable garden in my back yard" meaning there's a section of the yard behind my house where vegetables are grown, the rest can be covered with grass, trees, paving or whatever else.
     

    fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    a "yard" might contain nothing but junk. (a condition encountered occasionally in the U.S., but something I never observed in the U.K.)

    You are, as always, the epitome of gallantry. Unfortunately, the phenomenon you describe is not unknown in this country. But it is still called a “garden”, even if it is full of junk, or, as we say, “rubbish”.
     

    Prairiefire

    Senior Member
    US (Midwest) - English
    Here's one vote from the American Midwest telling you to trust your mother and ignore your Connecticut friend, who is too much of a stickler. If my husband tells me he is going out to the garden, I will not be surprised if I look out the window later and see him standing on the grass in the yard, rather than in the vegetable plot or the flower border.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    Your childhood experience is similar to standard British usage.

    As a child, my house had a back yard (floored with bricks or stone slabs) and also a back garden (grass, flower-beds, trees). The AE usage where yard = flower garden seems quite alien; though I've grown used to hearing it on film, I would never use it.
    As an American, I also find "yard = flower garden" to be quite alien. A yard is mostly grass. A flower garden is mostly flowers.
     

    Prairiefire

    Senior Member
    US (Midwest) - English
    DianaDC, as a 14th-generation English-speaking American, I qualify as about as native an AE speaker as you are going to find. I'm again going to say "Trust your mother." You are correct about the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco or the Bellingrath Gardens in Alabama. Lots of grass and open space in both places.

    If a yard has absolutely no shrubbery, flowers, vegetables or anything other than grass and a driveway, I would be surprised to hear someone call it a garden, but I wouldn't consider their aspirational terminology to be an error. But very few yards are so unadorned. I also notice that the section of my local hardware store that is now filled up with seasonal lawn seed, lawn mowers, flowering plants, and vegetable seeds is called the "Garden Center."
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Here in New York, both are used to describe the same area. The ground behind a multifamily dwelling in Manhattan (the only ground is behind; there's none in front or between the buildings), which may contain flowers, trees, shrubs, and so on and may be partly paved is what is traditionally called a backyard. But the ground floor rear apartment in the building that has access to this area is typically referred to as a "garden apartment". A garden may also exists on a terrace or rooftop (terrace garden or roof garden), typically in containers ("container gardening").

    In the other boroughs of New York City, there are one-family houses with the front, side, and back yards mentioned above.
     

    kc1005

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    As an American, I also find "yard = flower garden" to be quite alien. A yard is mostly grass. A flower garden is mostly flowers.
    Hi! I agree. Here, at least where I am from, I would only use the word "garden" if I were referring to an area with plants, flowers, or vegetation. I would never tell my kids, nor have I heard anyone say , "Go play in the garden", because I would find them crushing everything that I had planted! A garden, to me, is this area I have just described that you would find IN one's yard. I would tell my kids "Go play in the (back / front) yard" which would refer to the outside of my house.
     

    redgiant

    Senior Member
    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    Hi, I'm a little bit confused regarding the difference between vegetable garden and yard. You'd call a garden where you grow and tend vegetables as a vegetable garden. It's in your house's yard that is fenced or paved. But you'd also call an area full of grass a yard. Am I right?
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Hi, I'm a little bit confused regarding the difference between vegetable garden and yard. You'd call a garden where you grow and tend vegetables as a vegetable garden. It's in your house's yard that is fenced or paved. But you'd also call an area full of grass a yard. Am I right?
    To whom does "you" refer? (AE or BE speakers)
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    A picture being worth a thousand words:

    This picture and this picture show what we call front yards in AE - large grassy areas in front of houses, which may or may not contain trees, bushes, flower beds, &c. The grassy area is the lawn; when we cut the grass, most people mow the lawn, though I have heard people say mow the yard.

    This picture and this picture show back yards - the area behind the house, whether paved or covered with vegetation.

    This picture and this picture show side yards - the bits of land on either side of the house, connecting the front and back yards.

    This picture and this picture show flower gardens (or flower beds) - portions of a yard (front, back or side) which have been specifically designated for growing flowers.

    This picture and this picture show vegetable gardens - portions of a yard (usually a back yard) tilled and designated for growing vegetables.
     

    dianadc2103

    Member
    Italian
    Thanks to everybody for your useful contributions ! RM1 your pictures were really self-explaining. Just a last question for you: so in the USA (or at least in the Midwest) you would never use the word "garden", stand alone without further specifications (flower garden/vegetable garden), referring to a yard (as Prairiefire had suggested in post N.15?) ? But it is ok referring to city parks, right?
     

    interwrit

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Well, I guess in AmE it is so: some "yard" (meaning the area around a house) isn't always a "garden", but some "garden" (meaning the area around a house) is always a "yard". :)
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    Correct - I would only use garden to refer to a flower bed or vegetable plot, not to a yard/lawn.

    In a park, I would be more likely to just say "the flowers," as opposed to "the grass."
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    RM1 SS 's photos are absolutely clear -- for an American context.

    But in Britain, a yard is this <dead link removed>

    or else this

    <link replaced with a picture - Nat, moderator>
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    dianadc2103

    Member
    Italian
    Well, thanks to you all, the theory now is perfectly clear .. in practice I'll just have to decide whether to use the word "garden" or "yard" with my kids. I think I’ll make a Solomonic decision and … teach them both ! :D
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Well, thanks to you all, the theory now is perfectly clear .. in practice I'll just have to decide whether to use the word "garden" or "yard" with my kids. I think I’ll make a Solomonic decision and … teach them both ! :D
    No Solomon required - just teach them to use the word that is appropriate for country of their reader/listener.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Interesting thread. And despite the differences, it's the Garden of Eden or the Hanging Gardens of Babylon for all varieties of English. And we always talk about botanic(al) gardens.
     

    Gaardenier

    New Member
    Nederlands
    Strange, that nobody here was thinking about "vineyard"? Because nobody, in BE nor AE will speak about a vinegarden, isn't it?
    In Dutch the word Gaardenier <---> refers more to a yard with threes or bushes, rather than vegetables.
    What's more, why nobody mentions "yardberries"?
    In my opinion thus, the word with "-yard" refers more to fruit than to vegetables. Wether on trees, bushes or annual plants like strawberries, is not important. Conclusion is also that the origin of yard is much older, and rather dating from before people had vegetables and flowers in their yard.
    A gardner was not busy with vegetables nor flowers, but managed(cultivating, training, a.s.o.: fruit.

    < Non-English words removed. Cagey, moderator >
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I cannot think of any fruit other than vines growing in a 'yard'. In any case, a vineyard is not a yard in the sense used in this thread - which refers to the area of ground surrounding a house, known as a garden in BE. The word "yardberry" does not appear in the Oxford English Dictionary, nor have I been able to find it in any online dictionary - not even the Urban Dictionary (that must be a record).

    And people grew vegetables in their yards or gardens long before anybody spoke any form of English.
     

    MarcB

    Senior Member
    US English
    Yes I have never heard of yardberries and I do have several types of berry shrubs in my yard/ garden.. In some of our cities there are apartments which do not have any (much) area around them and the area is often paved.Reading the previous posts there are some slight differences regionally. In my little corner of the world: the land around the house ( often not paved) is a yard regardless of whether paved, just grass, trees , or a garden or in my case a very small orchard. A garden has to have some form of vegetation beyond grass and or large non- fruiting trees. So a garden has edible landscape and or flowers.I also have many fruit trees and shrubs, so. It can also be called a small orchard ( much smaller) than a commercial orchard.If one wishes to be specific the types of gardens mentioned are also used. Many yards are only partially paved some are fully or not at all.Vineyard is used when appropriate. Landscape is also used but less frequently. The people who take care of several yards commercially are called landscapers.
     
    Last edited:

    Gaardenier

    New Member
    Nederlands
    Hallo Andy,
    Yardbezen (Flemish) are strawberries. Are you only considering what is written in dictionaries or are you open to opinions you never heard?
    Try one moment to think about why vineyards are not called vinegardens.
    Ever heard about an olive yard? No? A fig yard? No? Since biblical times these exist. Any orchard is also rather a yard i.s.o. a garden.
    One exception in BE is an octopus's garden, there you are right.
     
    Last edited:

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Gaardenier. This is an English forum. There is no English word "yardberry". The Flemish word for "strawberry" is wholly irrelevant to English because we do not use it. As I already said, this thread is about the use of the words "garden" and "yard" to mean an area of land surrounding a house. There are differences in usage between BE and AE, and those differences are the topic of discussion here.

    It is not about vineyards (from the Old English wíngeard, which in modern English would be "wineyard"), nor is it about olive groves (not olive yards) nor fig orchards (not fig yards). You can call an olive grove or a fig orchard a yard if you wish, but if you do you will not be speaking English.
     

    Gaardenier

    New Member
    Nederlands
    <-----Off-topic comments removed by moderator (Florentia52)----->

    Thanks for your warm welcome!
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    Actually, “yard” and “garden” are etymologically the same word. “Yard” is the “genuine English” form, while “garden” is borrowed from Old French, which had it from the same Germanic source as “yard”. As usual with these Saxon/French doublets, the French word is classier, the Saxon more down to earth.
     

    Mrs Dormouse

    New Member
    English UK
    In Britain, certainly in Kent where is was first planted and also East Sussex where I have lived most of my life, we have the Hop Garden, which was certainly called that for centuries since it was first imported in the 1500's.
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    In Britain, certainly in Kent where is was first planted and also East Sussex where I have lived most of my life, we have the Hop Garden, which was certainly called that for centuries since it was first imported in the 1500's.
    Welcome!:)

    Kent, the Garden of England (and Sussex is not to be sniffed at). Yes, a hop garden is (Wikipedia):

    1. (agriculture, Britain) A field, fields or farm where hops are grown.
    I have just discovered (Google) they have hop gardens in Wisconsin and New Zealand as well.
     

    Mrs Dormouse

    New Member
    English UK
    Thank you for the welcome!

    I discovered my old home in Sussex drawn on an estate map dated 1635, it was surrounded by 'Hop Gardens' and I was struck by how little had changed over the years.

    That New Zealand grew hops was a surprise although I don't really know why, they have been producing other tasty items dear to the British heart, like Anchor butter that I miss so much now it is made in the UK.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top