second-hand, pre-owned

Discussion in 'English Only' started by hly2004, Aug 2, 2007.

  1. hly2004 Banned

    Hi, everyone:

    I know the meanings of the two expressions from my dictionary. I wonder if I could use them in front of "homes".

    For example:

    I bought a second-hand/pre-owned home last week.

    Are they Ok to say in the sentence ?

    Best wishes
  2. Ecossaise Senior Member

    Neither is a phrase normally used with houses. It is taken as a given that any house that is not absolutely new and never before lived in has been pre-owned. It is not necessary to say so.
  3. hly2004 Banned

    I see, thank you, Ecossaise
  4. setantaclaus Member

    English, Ireland
    "Pre-owned" is used in the US - frequently but not exclusively - in relation to automobiles, whereas "second-hand" is used in the UK and Ireland to refer to the same thing. As Ecossaise explained, it's not used with houses: a house/home is assumed to have been lived in, unless it's new or recently-constructed.
  5. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    It is not a common or conversational usage, but is instead a marketing affectation adopted by dealers. The ordinary way one would refer to a vehicle being sold that was not "new" is "used"; these vehicles are used cars. However, since the term used car dealer has decidedly pejorative overtones, the used car dealers frequently call themselves something else.
  6. setantaclaus Member

    English, Ireland
    You're right, GreenWhiteBlue. Whenever I hear or read the expression "pre-owned car" I'm reminded of George Carlin's airline routine, where he mocks the redundant use of the that prefix. Logically, a pre-owned car would have had at least two previous owners.
  7. SwissPete

    SwissPete Senior Member

    94044 USA
    Français (CH), AE (California)
    I agree that second-hand and pre-owned and used are not used to describe houses. On the other hand, you can say "I just bought a new house", but it's ambiguous. Do you mean "another house", or "a newly-built house"?
  8. crematoryfire New Member

    United States, English
    Usually when someone states that they bought a new house it implies that either the house itself is new or that the house is new to the person.
  9. SwissPete

    SwissPete Senior Member

    94044 USA
    Français (CH), AE (California)
    That’s why I said it’s ambiguous (which I misspelled in my previous post).
  10. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    You're right about the ambiguity. :)

    In American English we sometimes add "brand" in front of "new" to indicate we are talking about the item, not the item's relationship to us.

    "I bought a brand new home" would clearly mean that the home has never been lived in by anyone else.

    "I bought a brand new car" means that the car is new, not new to you.

    The ambiguity shows up in conversation, though, on a fairly regular basis. People will say, "I bought a new car --well, not 'new' new, but new to me." In AE this would not be unusual at all to hear.
  11. SwissPete

    SwissPete Senior Member

    94044 USA
    Français (CH), AE (California)
    Thanks, JamesM.

    Also brand spanking new, with an interesting link here (but we are going off topic).
  12. hly2004 Banned

    I've got it, thank you, Setantaclaus,GreenWhiteBlue,SwissPete, Crematoryfire, JamesM
  13. setantaclaus Member

    English, Ireland
    I agree, Swiss Pete, that it's open to interpretation, however, for me, a new house means a house that has been recently constructed rather than an additional house, although that might have a lot to do with the fact that I don't know many people who own more than one house. :)
  14. Manorrd Member

    Mandelieu, France
    Just in addition, the concept of "used" does not really apply when discussing houses in English. "Used" usually applies to, well, things that get used, like a car, or a vacuum cleaner, or a tea pot, or a drill, etc.

    One doesn’t really "use" a house. One lives inside of a house. You don’t refer to a used house, or a used dog, or a used tree, or a used painting, even though they might have been "pre owned" before you received them.

    Unfortunately, the English language does not have separate words to distinguish between "new" (i.e. freshly made and never owned) and "new" (i.e. different, even though it may be old.)

    French, for example, has the adjective "neuf" when something is brand new, and "nouveau" for different, or newly acquired.
  15. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    I have never seen "pre-owned" in a sales description before. Has that been around for a while or is it some sort of trend that is likely to die out again?
  16. Manorrd Member

    Mandelieu, France
    "Pre-owned" has only been around for about 10 years or so. It started showing itself in North America to make selling something used sound more attractive.

    Customer: Is this computer used?

    Salesman: We prefer to consider it "pre-owned."

    I hope it's a trend that will die out. The term "pre-owned" sounds manipulative and evasive to me.
  17. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    I'm pretty sure I remember "pre-owned Cadillacs" as a sales label back in the 70s. I think it's been around longer than ten years.

Share This Page