seen/saw

lost_mama

New Member
English
Ok, in a bit if a discussion with a friend.

I wrote in reference to losing a card...

Monday was the last time I seen it.

She says it is wrong and I should have said saw it.
I say either way is correct, she says her way. If I had to choose one it would the first way
 
  • GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Welcome to the forum, lost mama.

    The past tense of "see" is "saw". "Seen" is the past participle.

    I see the dog today.
    I saw the dog yesterday.
    I have seen the dog many times in the past.

    While you are free to say anything at all that you choose, you should be aware that if you say "I seen it", many people will think you are poorly educated.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    Your first post -- Welcome to the Forum :) -- and I have to tell you that your friend is right. Monday was the last time I saw it.

    I will test our new friendship further by suggesting that many people would consider "seen it" as sounding under-educated, so I would recommend that you not use it as an alternative.

    Edit: I see that GWB and I share that opinion.
     

    brian

    Senior Member
    AmE (New Orleans)
    Seen would be perfectly grammatical in that sentence if uttered by speakers from certain southern US regions. Some of my family, in fact, never say the word saw.

    Where are you from, lost_mama?
     

    Saurabh

    Senior Member
    English-British, Hindi
    Greetings!!! LostMama!
    Welcome to the Forum. :)
    I would only say saw there.
    However, I could see the difference as:
    1.) Monday was the last time I saw it.
    2) Monday was the last time it was seen by me.
    Second sentence is passive voice of 1).

    Hope it helps!
    Cheers,
    Sau...
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Seen would be perfectly grammatical in that sentence if uttered by speakers from certain southern US regions.
    It might be perfectly common. It would not be perfectly grammatical. Its acceptability would also be directly related to their level of education. I certainly would not expect the Governor of Louisiana, or the Archbishop of New Orleans, or the president of LSU, to say in a public address of any kind "I seen that".
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    It might be perfectly common. It would not be perfectly grammatical. Its acceptability would also be directly related to their level of education. I certainly would not expect the Governor of Louisiana, or the Archbishop of New Orleans, or the president of LSU, to say in a public address of any kind "I seen that".
    It is perfectly grammatical in those dialects which use it. There is no justification for identifying standard grammar as "perfectly grammatical" and nonstandard grammar as somehow less perfect. If an utterance can be spoken in a given dialect without any of the speakers of that dialect noticing anything odd about it, the grammar of that utterance is perfectly grammatical in that dialect.
     

    brian

    Senior Member
    AmE (New Orleans)
    It might be perfectly common. It would not be perfectly grammatical.
    I'm sorry, but how can you judge the grammaticality of a dialect of English that you probably do not speak? :confused: If I ever heard some of the members of my family say I saw instead of I seen, I would be shocked. Just as shocked as if I heard a newscaster say I seen. Each dialect has its own grammatical and ungrammatical forms, and they don't always overlap.

    GreenWhiteBlue said:
    Its acceptability would also be directly related to their level of education.
    What does this have anything to do with anything?

    GreenWhiteBlue said:
    I certainly would not expect the Governor of Louisiana, or the Archbishop of New Orleans, or the president of LSU, to say in a public address of any kind "I seen that".
    Of course not, because most people can and will switch into standard English dialect when necessary, so as not to be wrongly generalized as "poorly educated" by people who don't realize there are many Englishes out there, each "grammatical" in its own right.

    It is perfectly grammatical in those dialects which use it. There is no justification for identifying standard grammar as "perfectly grammatical" and nonstandard grammar as somehow less perfect. If an utterance can be spoken in a given dialect without any of the speakers of that dialect noticing anything odd about it, the grammar of that utterance is perfectly grammatical in that dialect.
    :thumbsup:
     
    So one answer to the original question is that "I seen it" is incorrect and ungrammatical in standard American English. People who are unfamiliar with its acceptability in certain dialects will likely assume that someone who uses this expression has poor grammar.

    Once armed with this knowledge, users of "I seen" can make their own decision as to how much, if at all, to modify their dialect in order to avoid that perception.

    Does that seem reasonable?
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Yes, that seems to me to be a problem. If you live where seen is commonly used, then you will sound strange to people if you switch to saw. But if you use seen in other settings, it will sound like a mistake to people who don't realize how many ways something can be said.

    It's good to know that some people expect you to say saw, but whichever one you use doesn't really mean anything about who you are.

    What I am curious about: If the people where you live say seen and you start saying saw how does that sound to them? Does it sound wrong, like a grammatical mistake? Does it sound like you are being snooty?
     

    brian

    Senior Member
    AmE (New Orleans)
    Cagey said:
    What I am curious about: If the people where you live say seen and you start saying saw how does that sound to them? Does it sound wrong, like a grammatical mistake? Does it sound like you are being snooty?
    No, at least not in my experience. It's simply taken as a fact that your dialect/way of speaking is different from theirs, and that's that.

    However, my situation may be a bit unique. My parents are divorced and both remarried, and my mom's & stepdad's sides both speak thick varieties of southern Louisiana/New Orleans accents, whereas my dad's and stepmother's sides do not quite as much. I also had a good education and moved away for university, so much of my southern dialect has been lost, or never was there to begin with.

    I'm pretty sure I never personally say I seen, but my stepdad says it exclusively. Having grown up hearing it, it sounds perfectly normal to me (though I of course associate it with his side of the family and speakers like them). Similarly, I never picked it up as a child (that I know of), so he (and his family) must be used to my always saying I saw. As such, I don't think there's much underlying judgment going on. [However, I imagine that if someone who grew up saying seen all of a sudden switched to saw, he might be viewed by his peers as being rather snooty, kind of like someone who starts to use whom all over the place.]

    But to be perfectly honest, there's a lot that I think I don't say, but in fact I do when I go home. I catch myself using double negatives, saying he don't, etc. all the time because it's so normal (and grammatical!) in my family's speech. So I'll make sure to keep an eye (or ear) out if slip some I seen's into my speech next time I'm home. :D
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    I'm sorry, but how can you judge the grammaticality of a dialect of English that you probably do not speak? :confused:
    Brian, this use of "seen" is not something unique to what you want to regard as a "dialect"; it is instead found all the time everywhere. I have heard it my entire life here in New York City, and I have friends who say it constantly to this day. The likelihood of use, though, is directly related to the level of education of the speaker. That does not mean that there is a "dialect" used only by the uneducated. What it means is that persons with less education, whether in the south, or the northeast, or in Ireland, or anywhere, often use "seen" in place of "saw". Unless you are arguing that a dialect is something defined more by social class and education than by the place one lives, I would say that "seen" is not the "perfectly grammatical" usage of a dialect, but is instead a common error all over the English-speaking world of those who are not well educated.
     
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    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    GWB raises an interesting point. Some dialects routinely say "I seen it" for what would be "I saw it" in standard English. A dialect has its own grammar, or grammatical conventions if you prefer, so the expression "I seen it" can be correct in a spoken or written dialect.

    In addition to that, it may be used by people who are not using a dialect; they are speaking standard English, as best they are able. Their English includes mistakes. I'm used to hearing some coastal Maine dialects that are different from standard English. Sometimes those dialects use constructions that are internally consistent and correct, but incorrect in standard English.

    Some speakers of those dialects switch to standard English when speaking with people "from away", or those thought to be from outside the dialect group. They carry some dialect constructions into attempts at standard English, where these are clearly wrong. It may be habit, but more often it is a lack of formal education that causes these incongruities.
     

    pickarooney

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    "Level of education" is a common misnomer. I know people with doctorates who say "I seen" and "I done" and secondary school drop-outs who say "I saw" and "I did". Only the latter is correct though.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    "Level of education" is a common misnomer. I know people with doctorates who say "I seen" and "I done" and secondary school drop-outs who say "I saw" and "I did". Only the latter is correct though.
    I would be the last to claim that being granted a doctorate by a university is indisputable proof that a person is well-educated. :D
     
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