She "fell" pregnant

Discussion in 'English Only' started by SlovakN, Sep 28, 2010.

  1. SlovakN New Member

    Hello everyone,

    I've really been having trouble understanding the phrase "she fell pregnant". I understand it means to become pregnant, but I always thought you would say "she became pregnant" or "she got pregnant". Is this common in English?

    Could someone please help me to understand why the verb 'to fall' is used in this way? And if possible to provide some other examples of it being used like this?

    I've really been having problems understanding this so would be very grateful for your comments.

  2. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    Welcome to the forum SlovakN.

    English is heavily dependent upon context, e.g. a complete sentence, a reference to where you found the sample, etc.

    For that reason, forum rules require that questions include context so as to avoid misleading responses by people who read a sentence fragment differently.
  3. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
  4. SlovakN New Member

    Thanks for my welcome Sdgraham :)

    For context, I work in an office with lots of native English speakers, and one of my colleagues is pregnant, and she was talking to us about the cravings she had when she first 'fell' pregnant. I think her sentence was like "when I first fell pregnant I wanted chocolate all the time and now I want cheese"

    Is that much more clear? Sorry I wasn't clear before.
  5. SlovakN New Member


    Many thanks for that Loob, and thanks for my welcome.

    I understand this to mean that 'fall' can be used instead of 'become'?
  6. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Yes, it can - but only with a small number of complements. He fell angry:cross:, for example, wouldn't work.
  7. SlovakN New Member


    Ok great, that's what I wanted to know. Thank you very much!
  8. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    I've heard of fallen women, but I've never heard the phrase she fell pregnant.

    Is this common in BE? It certainly is not common in AE.
  9. SlovakN New Member


    Really? American English speakers do not say this?
  10. owlman5

    owlman5 Senior Member

    I certainly don't remember ever hearing this one before. We generally use "got pregnant".
  11. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    There are plenty of Google News hits - but they do seem to be predominantly from the UK, MrP:).
  12. SlovakN New Member

    I now understand it to mean 'become' in specific contexts and not an American saying.

    Thanks everyone for the help!
  13. pickarooney

    pickarooney Senior Member

    Provence, France
    English (Ireland)
    I find "fall pregnant" a little strange in English, although it's perfectly comprehensible. It sounds like a literal translation of the French "tomber enceinte."
  14. kitenok Senior Member

    To clarify, Slovak: only fall pregnant sounds odd in US English. Fall silent, fall sick, fall victim (to), fall asleep, and many other such expressions with "fall" are all perfectly natural in American English.
  15. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    I agree. I was only referring to "fall pregnant" when I said it would be very uncommon to hear.
  16. Spira Banned

    South of France
    UK English
    "To fall pregnant" is said in BE, but it should be noted that it often carries the idea that the pregnancy was not intended.
  17. Majorbloodnock Senior Member

    South East England
    British English
    Agreed, and the mental image of someone with a surprised expression wondering "How did that happen?" perhaps implies a sad indictment on the effectiveness of sexual education in the UK.
  18. Benkarnell

    Benkarnell Member

    US English
    This sounds like a mostly-joking way to compare the pregnancy to an illness: normally you "fall ill".
  19. Majorbloodnock Senior Member

    South East England
    British English
    I wouldn't say it's used in a joking way in the UK, Benkarnell. However, it does perhaps imply either a feeling of disappointment or a reluctance to own up to responsibility.

    "It was an accident"
    "I didn't mean for that to happen"
    "It wasn't really my fault; he/she was just a bit careless"
  20. boozer Senior Member

    That's how a non-native speaker (myself) would feel about it too. The verb "fall" suggests getting into some disadvantaged situation/position/condition. I just cannot help thinking it.
  21. ljosalfar Senior Member

    Dawlish, Devon
    English - Southern England
    "Fell pregnant" in BE is pretty common and not necessarily at all pejorative - by which I mean it doesn't necessarily imply accidental/unwanted pregnancy, it's synonymous with "got pregnant". It's more commonly a working class and/or Northern usage.
  22. Maelduin New Member

    English - Ireland
    The usage for "fall pregnant" has changed in recent years, I think. When I first heard it, it was purely a British term (that is, it wasn't used in Ireland), and it suggested that the pregnancy was unfortunate - that a "girl" had "got into trouble", as was the phrase for birth outside wedlock in those days when this meant social isolation and didn't imply cohabitation.
    But in recent years it has become a normal (if ugly) way of expressing "she became pregnant" or "she got pregnant".
    It's a question of fashion - an awkward phrase has a period of fashionable use then disappears again - a comparable phrase is the use of "shot to death" for what would normally be phrased as "shot dead" - this phrase spreading from America.

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