schoolboy/schoolgirl / student / pupil

Discussion in 'English Only' started by marina6, Feb 15, 2007.

  1. marina6 Member

    I've come across the following difference between the words a schoolchild (a schoolboy / a schoolgirl) and a pupil:
    There may be some situations when a child just wants to state that they go to school (and not to kindergarden, for example). So, a boy could say:
    1. "I'm 10 years old. I'm a pupil."
    2. "I'm 14 years old. I'm a pupil."

    Or if a woman is speaking about her daughter:
    "I've got a daughter. She's a pupil."

    I think, I was taught to use a pupil in such cases. But now I'm not sure that the sentences are correct. Should I use a schoolboy / a schoolgirl:
    1. "I'm 10 years old. I'm a schoolboy."
    2. "I've got a daughter. She's a schoolgirl."
    Or is it better to say:
    1. "I'm 10 years old. I go to school."
    2. "I've got a daughter. She goes to school."

    Thanks in advance.
  2. Alelo Senior Member

    Although technically, all the sentences you have written are grammatically correct, no one would refer to themselves or as a "schoolboy/schoolgirl." The last two sentences are what you would hear most (if not all the time) often.

    As for pupil, it is generally used to say that someone is a pupil of someone else, ie "I am a pupil of the old master." You would probably hear "I am a student of the old master" more often.

    Someone else will probably explain it much better than I can though, so I'd wait a bit more.

    Edit: It is probably a safe bet that pupil is an uncommon word to use nowadays.
  3. ilbisaac Member

    United States/English
    "Pupil" is antiquated, as Alelo states. The only time I've heard it is "I am a pupil of somebody famous blah blah (as in, some world-famous violinist or something)" or in "I don't need to go to school tomorrow because it's a 'pupil-free day'."
    "Pupil-free day" is a weird expression, but I have heard it.

    The only people who would call themselves schoolboys/girls are... to be blunt, role-playing or something (sexual).

    I've also heard the phrase, "I'm giddy like a schoolboy!" This is a humorous simile that really means nothing today, but it's used every so often by goofy individuals.
    Just say,
    "I am 13 years old. I am a student." I would avoid both "pupil" and "schoolboy/girl."
  4. marina6 Member

    Thank you, Alelo and ilbisaac! I didn't know that a pupil is archaic.

    Then, if I change the sentence: "I'm a student of the 1st (2nd, 3rd etc.) form.", will it be also correct?

    P.S. Well, I'm very confused with the "schoolboys..."! I wonder, if I should change the title of the thread...
  5. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Australia English
    In Britain and Australia, schoolboy/schoolgirl is not confined to sexual role play.

    A headline from the website of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (our version of the BBC) : Griffith farewells murdered schoolboy, dated 9 January 2007.

    And here's a headline from a UK newspaper, dated 15 Feb 2007:
    Four held over schoolboy shooting

    Here's one from The Scotsman, 3 Feb 2007
    Rape of schoolgirl planned via net

    And one from The Australian: 8 Feb 2007
    Schoolgirl killed crossing the road,20867,21195558-5006786,00.html

    There is really no replacement for schoolboy in the phrase "schoolboy humour".

    Pupil is still used in Britain, but in Australia it has been ousted by student.

    Once upon a time a student was someone in higher education, but now it can include primary and secondary education. So it is often necessary to specify "school student", "college student", "university student", "doctoral student".
  6. maxiogee Banned


    To my mind a pupil is spoken of once the school/teacher has been mentioned, or is about to be mentioned.
    So that
    1. "I'm 10 years old. I'm a pupil."
    2. "I'm 14 years old. I'm a pupil."

    Or if a woman is speaking about her daughter:
    "I've got a daughter. She's a pupil."

    Would best read
    1. "I'm 10 years old. I'm a pupil at XYZ school."
    2. "I'm 14 years old. I'm a pupil at the local academy."

    Or if a woman is speaking about her daughter:
    "I've got a daughter. She's a pupil of Mr Carter's."

    I'd be happier with those than with the use of 'pupil'.

    My only uneasiness would be in that most countries demand school attendance - and in that case, why would one mention that a 10 year old is a schoolboy (or schoolgirl)? It is understood that a 10 year old would be at school. Pointing this out is like saying that the sea is wet - what else could it be? One expects a 10 year old to be at school.
  7. Katoussa

    Katoussa Senior Member

    Hello !

    I am a French Assistant teaching in English schools for this year, and when I was learning English, I was taught that 'pupil' meant 'élève'. However, here, all the teachers call the children 'students'. Is the word 'pupil' obsolete? Or does it have another meaning? I am confused :confused:

  8. Tartuffe

    Tartuffe Member

    Connecticut, USA
    English - US
    All students are pupils; not all pupils are students. Students actually work at learning. Some pupils merely keep a seat warm.
  9. Katoussa

    Katoussa Senior Member

    ok thanks :)
    Does 'pupil' have a 'bad meaning'?

  10. Tartuffe

    Tartuffe Member

    Connecticut, USA
    English - US
    Not at all. It is neutral.
  11. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    The term will depend on the variety of English used. Pupil is not obsolete in BrE, and used especially with the younger children (at primary school).

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