On second thought(s)

moodywop

Banned
Italian - Italy
I've always said on second thoughts. The other day a Canadian friend corrected me, saying it should be on second thought. It sounded so wrong to him that he said he thought I was translating from the Italian. Is the singular form the only correct one in North America? And surely it can only be plural in I'm having second thoughts?

Carlo
 
  • Kelly B

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Hello, these are the sentences I would be comfortable with:

    on second thought: I am speaking now, I have changed my mind, and will now say something that contrasts with what I just said
    I'm having second thoughts
    : I had planned one course of action, but now I'm not sure it was a good idea after all

    The first version should use the singular thought; the second version should use the plural.
     

    fenixpollo

    moderator
    American English
    These are both idiomatic expressions:

    On second thought, I'll have the vanilla instead.
    I'm having second thoughts about our marriage.

    You can't say I don't know any Americans (though I can't speak for Canadians) who would say "on second thoughts..." or "I'm having a second thought." It would sound too strange.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    fenixpollo said:
    You can't say "on second thoughts..." or "I'm having a second thought." It would sound too strange.
    Good morning USA!
    I don't think moodywop needs a BE view, but here's one anyway.
    "On second thoughts, maybe I'll have the nocciola," would be OK here - in fact would be normal here (especially if the only alternative was vanilla).
     

    modgirl

    Senior Member
    USA English
    panjandrum said:
    Good morning USA!
    I don't think moodywop needs a BE view, but here's one anyway.
    "On second thoughts, maybe I'll have the nocciola," would be OK here - in fact would be normal here (especially if the only alternative was vanilla).

    Oh, so it is British English -- I didn't know that! I agree with fenix on the American usage.
     

    moodywop

    Banned
    Italian - Italy
    panjandrum said:
    I don't think moodywop needs a BE view, but here's one anyway.

    Actually a BE view is highly appreciated. You confirmed my impression that it's on second thoughts in BE and on second thought in AE(and Canadian English, apparently).

    Although I learnt my English in the UK I come into contact mainly with AE speakers and - as with many foreign learners - my usage ends up being a bit of a hybrid. I've seen that happen to native speakers of BE who have lived in the U.S. for a long time.
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Here's another vote for "on second thought." I have never heard anyone use the plural.

    Interesting to know that it's used in Britain.
     

    moodywop

    Banned
    Italian - Italy
    The fact that many Americans seem to be unfamiliar with British usage prompted a consideration that may well be beyond the scope of this thread. British kids are exposed to hours and hours of American TV series, MTV etc. Have our British members noticed any "Americanization" in the language used by the younger generations? A ten-year-old from a village in Kent recently asked me "Do you have any children?". Surely years ago his question would have been "Have you got any children?".
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    i would explain about the impact of TV on speech patterns in the UK - comments such as:
    WMPG, who is five, speaks fluent American - but only when she is talking to inanimate objects. She reverts to adult language when talking to the rest of us.

    I have mentioned elsewhere that we on the celtic fringes are more competent at multi-accents than those nearer to the centre of population - and that there seems to be a complete set of telly-addicts who have adopted the antipodean terminal pitch uplift in imitation of OzE soaps.

    ...but I know that this would be way off-topic and moderators would get upset, so I'll skip that completely;)
     

    Jonegy

    Senior Member
    UK - English
    fenixpollo said:
    These are both idiomatic expressions:

    On second thought, I'll have the vanilla instead.
    I'm having second thoughts about our marriage.

    QUOTE]

    To put it logically - try the following :-

    - My first thought was to have chocolate

    - My second thought was to have vanilla

    The 'second thought' means there has been a plurality, so therefore the correct usage should be 'on second thoughts'. (on the second of my two thoughts).

    My 2 penn'orth ;)
     

    Silvia

    Senior Member
    Italian
    I may be dreaming... but I clearly remember someone from the UK who used to say "on a second thought" (I'm not sure how hybrid his English is now, because he's been living in Canada for years).
     

    Gordonedi

    Senior Member
    UK (Scotland) English
    Silvia said:
    I may be dreaming... but I clearly remember someone from the UK who used to say "on a second thought" (I'm not sure how hybrid his English is now, because he's been living in Canada for years).

    Now that I have heard, albeit only occasionally, in the South East of England. The addition of the "a" makes all the difference.

    In general, though, it's the plural "on second thoughts" that I am used to, whether to announce a change of decision or a possible change of heart.
     

    Rach404

    Member
    England/English
    Definately what I use is "On second thoughts", plural, with no "a". I live in London, and I have never heard anyone (my English friends anyway) say "On second thought" or "I have a second thought". That just doesn't sound right to me.
    Rach
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    moodywop said:
    The fact that many Americans seem to be unfamiliar with British usage prompted a consideration that may well be beyond the scope of this thread. British kids are exposed to hours and hours of American TV series, MTV etc. Have our British members noticed any "Americanization" in the language used by the younger generations? A ten-year-old from a village in Kent recently asked me "Do you have any children?". Surely years ago his question would have been "Have you got any children?".

    In the sort of British English that I speak "have" is more formal, and "have got" less formal.

    I'm sure my rather proper mother would always have said "Do you have .. " rather than "Have you got .."

    I always say "on second thoughts".
    I'm having second thoughts about this .
     

    Mr X

    Member
    Australia, English
    I would always say 'on second thoughts' too. Using the singular would sound a bit strange to me.
     
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