Sitting vs sat

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pomao1977

Member
Colombia
I have not been able to find out the answer to this issue.
According to the grammar rule, should be right to say "there is a man sat next to me" but we say "there is a man sitting next to me". I have seen that the same happens with verbs such us "miss". Is there any grammar explanation to this pattern? Does anyone know wher I can get the answer?
Thank you!
 
  • Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I have not been able to find out the answer to this issue.
    According to the grammar rule, should be right to say "there is a man sat next to me" but we say "there is a man sitting next to me". I have seen that the same happens with verbs such us "miss". Is there any grammar explanation to this pattern? Does anyone know wher I can get the answer?
    Thank you!
    I think in BE it's both a class and a regional variation. The smarter Southern version is sitting; the working class Northern version is sat.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    To me, "There is a man sat next to me" sounds like someone else assigned him that seat, as if the complete sentence were "There is a man (who was) sat/seated next to me." In itself, the sentence sounds odd to my ears.

    "There is a man sitting/seated next to me" simply describes his location, to my ears.

    I'm not sure which "grammar rule" you're referring to that says "there is a man sat next to me" should be right.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    "A man is sat next to me" seems fine to me. (But "sitting" is more common.)

    "There is a man sat next to me", for some reason, sounds a bit off...
     

    Trinibeens

    Senior Member
    NYC
    U.S. English
    I have not been able to find out the answer to this issue.
    According to the grammar rule, should be right to say "there is a man sat next to me" but we say "there is a man sitting next to me". I have seen that the same happens with verbs such us "miss". Is there any grammar explanation to this pattern? Does anyone know wher I can get the answer?
    Thank you!
    "Sat" is the past tense of the verb "to sit". If "a man sat next to you", it occured in the past, even if it was just 10 seconds ago.

    The verb is not past tense ("is" is present tense) in your sentence, "There is a man sitting next to me" which means the same thing as "A man is sitting next to me." We would not say, "A man is sat next to me," but "A man sat next to me."
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    But Trinibeens, we aren't so much concerned here with the past tense as with the past participle, sat, versus the present participle, sitting. Some people in BE use sat as the present participle of to sit.

    When you say We would not say 'a man is sat next to me', who are you speaking for? I promise you it is often said by less well-off people, particularly in the North of England.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    According to the grammar rule, should be right to say "there is a man sat next to me" but we say "there is a man sitting next to me".
    I cannot imagine what grammar rule would justify this usage.

    "There is a man sat next to me" is incorrect and ungrammatical. "A man is sat next to me" is equally incorrect. Apparently, these are forms that might be used in some rural English dialects, but for my part I have never heard either one used. In formal circumstances or in writing I would certainly advise that you use neither of these, and instead use the standard and grammatical form, which is "There is a man sitting next to me."

    If you are trying to say that someone has been assigned to sit in that place, you may say "there is a man seated next to me", but "to seat" is different from "to sit."
     

    Trinibeens

    Senior Member
    NYC
    U.S. English
    But Trinibeens, we aren't so much concerned here with the past tense as with the past participle, sat, versus the present participle, sitting. Some people in BE use sat as the present participle of to sit.
    Simply because some people in BE use it as the present participle, does not mean it is grammatically correct. The OP thought it was gramatically correct, and that was what the question pertained to.

    When you say We would not say 'a man is sat next to me', who are you speaking for? I promise you it is often said by less well-off people, particularly in the North of England.
    I don't think those in the North of England who use it this way do so because they are less well-off, but more likely because they are less educated. Or do they teach this usage in the schools up there?
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    This is very interesting. In the Romance languages, it's perfectly acceptable to use a past participle as an adjective describing a state (like "sat"). But that's because we never use the gerund as an adjective. In English, however, the present participle ("sitting") can also act as an adjective, and so it becomes possible to make a distinction between state (sitting) and result (sat).

    But I see that some English dialects never got the memo about all these fine distinctions... ;)
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It might be best not to go into why they say it. I made no causal connection and I never said it was correct, just that it is common usage. We were learning the other day that the OED is descriptive rather than prescriptive. I wonder if it acknowledges it.
    You mustn't think it is unusual either. Go into almost any public house in the North of England and you'd think it the standard form.
     

    jamesjiao

    Senior Member
    New Zealand English and Mandarin Chinese
    Let me take this opportunity to summarize the above posts.

    Two two phrases: "there is a man sat next to me" and "there is a man sitting next to me" have a very subtle difference in their meanings.

    1) The 'sat' in the first phrase is the passive form of 'sit', not the past tense.

    2) *To sit* is usually intransitive meaning it does not have a passive form.

    3) When it's used as a transitive verb, it means to 'get (someone) to sit down', in which case the passive form is 'sat'.

    Therefore, though awkward, the phrase "
    there is a man sat next to me" implies "someone has sat a man down in a seat right next to mine", whereas "there is a man sitting next to me" simply expresses a state and it does not indicate whether the man voluntarily chose to sit there by himself or otherwise. All those being said, I personally still prefer "there is a man seated next to me" than "there is a man sat next to me". The latter just seems slightly unnatural to me.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Here's what I've gathered from the replies so far:

    1. The two sentences "there is a man sat next to me" and "there is a man sitting next to me" can mean exactly the same thing, but in different dialects of English.
    2. However, in standard American and British English, "there is a man sat next to me" is unacceptable, ungrammatical.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Here's what I've gathered from the replies so far:
    1. The two sentences "there is a man sat next to me" and "there is a man sitting next to me" can mean exactly the same thing, but in different dialects of English.
    2. However, in standard American and British English, "there is a man sat next to me" is unacceptable, ungrammatical.
    I would certainly agree with these two sentences. In 1. I'd say the two meant exactly the same thing.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Go into almost any public house in the North of England and you'd think it the standard form.
    Go into almost any public house* in the North of England and it is the standard form. For someone to start an anecdote with I was in here last night and there was a bloke sitting next to me ... would sound distinctly pretentious or even la-di-da [not a technical term].

    *If you can find one.
     

    VincentOostelbos

    New Member
    Dutch
    I don't think those in the North of England who use it this way do so because they are less well-off, but more likely because they are less educated. Or do they teach this usage in the schools up there?
    Well, I don't know that it's about being less educated per se. In all likelihood, and as far as I understand it, "be sat" is grammatical in their dialect, and so they learn it the same way other speakers of English would learn "be sitting": from acquiring the language as infants. In the same way that in a certain African American vernacular, double negatives are grammatical.

    As a native speaker of Dutch, I cannot speak to the correctness of my personal grammaticality judgments about English (though I started learning it almost soon enough that you could call me a native speaker, I wasn't quite young enough). However, I can speak as a former linguistics student. Granted, linguistics is about description, not prescription, so if you wanted to prescribe what is grammatically correct rather than describe native speakers's judgments, you could do that (as I liked to do prior to learning about linguistics). In that case, you're probably correct in saying that "be sitting" would be the more commonly accepted syntax.

    I don't agree with the notion that "be sat" in this context would mean that someone else sat the person down there (the causative use of the verb). That would be the necessary interpretation in the common dialect of English, where "is sitting" would be used as the default. However, that does not seem to be the intended meaning of speakers of the dialect whose speakers use "is sat" in this manner.
     
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    Rikstir

    Banned
    English
    I have not been able to find out the answer to this issue.
    According to the grammar rule, should be right to say "there is a man sat next to me" but we say "there is a man sitting next to me". I have seen that the same happens with verbs such us "miss". Is there any grammar explanation to this pattern? Does anyone know wher I can get the answer?
    Thank you!
    He was sat or he is sat are both wrong! They are aleasys wron!

    I sit - present tence
    I sat - past tence
    I will sit - future tence
    I am sitting - present particable
    I was sitting - Past particable
    I will be sitting - Future particable

    It is always sitting when an extra word like was am or (will be) is added to the sentence.

    Native English speaker with near perfect grammar.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    We certainly need a few native English speakers with near-perfect grammar.

    The problem with the view that was or is sat is always wrong, is that it raises as many questions about what is meant by wrong as it answers about use of the expression.

    We have to take into account that it's extremely common in demotic speech. The BNC (British corpus) has over fifty examples like this:

    a. I was in this lesson and two or three of my mates were messing about, and I was sat across the other side of the classroom and someone chucked a piece of chalk at the teacher and then started shouting his mouth off.
    b. I heard an amazing comment when I was sat in the North East corner of Elland Road for the Crewe game.


    These are clearly very energetic and fluent native speakers of English. If you were to tell them that their English was not 'correct', I'm not sure that they would think you were making anything other than a social comment.

    I think we need another word to describe this use.

    ps. it's interesting that the ngrams bear out that the usage is relatively modern (post 1700) - it's not found in Shakespeare, for instance. The impression given by the AE contributors to this thread, that it's not found in AE, is only partly supported by the ngrams, which suggest that it's far from unknown in AE books, though nothing like as common as in BE ones.
     
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    Rikstir

    Banned
    English
    Many native speakers have appalling grammar and I regularly correct people. I was sat is always wrong and I'll stand toe to toe with anyone who says different because they are quite simply wrong!
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Can you cite any authority for your statement or are we to see each other's toes? ;)

    I think the point TT is making is that there is no authority in English to make the absolute statement as to whether something is wrong or not, merely there is opinion on which syntax, grammar, words, and spellings are used acceptably.

    Language is always changing, we do not speak like Chaucer or Shakespeare, therefore, at one time, those changes that brought us here must have been considered "wrong" but are now "right."

    The evolution of language is continuous and very democratic: if enough people say one thing, then it is accepted.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Many native speakers have appalling grammar and I regularly correct people. I was sat is always wrong and I'll stand toe to toe with anyone who says different because they are quite simply wrong!
    Hi Rikstir,

    Don't you think you should do a little more to justify your point of view?

    On what basis do you 'correct' people? How can we say we speak 'more correct' English than most of the population of the North of England?

    You yourself use what I regard as a colloquial expression, 'to say different', when you mean 'to disagree', but I wouldn't 'correct' you, because, after all, the expression is in vigorous use by natives, who also say things like 'was sat', as in the examples I quoted.
     

    Einstein

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    I'm from the south of England and say "He was sitting in the corner", but when I first heard "He was sat in the corner" from a Lancashireman (who was neither poor nor uneducated) it didn't occur to me to think it was wrong, just unusual to my ear. I think we can also justify it in grammatical terms, with "sat" meaning placed in a sitting position. Even in the south we say of a child, "His mother sat him in the corner" and the passive version would be "He was sat in the corner by his mother". By extension, "sat" describes a person's position, even if he went to sit there of his own accord.
     

    Rikstir

    Banned
    English
    What other people say is irrelivant, I was sat is incorrect just like 2 plus 2 makes 4, there is no debate.
     

    Rikstir

    Banned
    English
    Einstine.
    yes the mother sat the child on the seat can be correct but I was trying to keep it simple for someone doesn't speak English as a first language.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I'm from the south of England and say "He was sitting in the corner", but when I first heard "He was sat in the corner" from a Lancashireman (who was neither poor nor uneducated) it didn't occur to me to think it was wrong, just unusual to my ear. I think we can also justify it in grammatical terms, with "sat" meaning placed in a sitting position. Even in the south we say of a child, "His mother sat him in the corner" and the passive version would be "He was sat in the corner by his mother". By extension, "sat" describes a person's position, even if he went to sit there of his own accord.
    Yes, Einstein.

    Sat is quite a natural past participle of the transitive verb to sit.

    And that form is found in Shakespeare, if Shakespeare really did write the Lover's Complaint:

    So slides he down upon his grained bat,
    And comely-distant sits he by her side;
    When he again desires her, being sat,
    Her grievance with his hearing to divide:


    I'm not sure I know enough about grammar to understand how sat, seated, a past participle, came to be used as a present participle equivalent to sitting.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    ... << deleted >> ....
    Hmm, you might like to check your spelling before commenting on other people's grammar.

    The grammar of part of the British Isles always requires "he was sitting". However, the grammar of spoken English over a very large part of the British Isles, not exclusively in those parts where 'bath' and 'grass' have the short 'a', requires "he was sat". The language is a means of communication between people and, ultimately, the people determine what is correct grammar.
     
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    Rikstir

    Banned
    English
    < Off topic comment removed. > Saying it's okay to say I was sat because you were brought up in the north, is like saying 2 + 2 is 4 but if you want to believe it's 5 you can. My ex was from up north and her grammer was appalling. She uded took when it should have been taken, fell when it should have been fallen etc the list goes on.
     
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    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Actually, many people would argue vehemently with you that proper English is "2 plus 2 are 4" and would consider you equally wrong for saying "is". Which of you would be "right" in that case? Are you right because so many people use "is" and you have heard and spoken it all your life, or is the other person right because there are grammar books that insist that the only correct practice is to use the plural when speaking mathematical equations such as "2+2=4"?
     
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    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    < Response to deleted comment. >

    If people have been saying "he was sat" for generations, as they have, that usage is grammatical in their dialect of English. It may not be grammatical in standard written British English, but that's beside the point.
     
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    Rikstir

    Banned
    English
    I'm quite happy to be corrected on the 2 plus 2 thing. Thank you I have learnt something new. The rest of my statement stands and people who want to argue about it are simply in denial and wasting thier time.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    I think you're missing the general point. You are arguing that there is one right way to say things. Language is not math. There is no authoritative agency that says "This is correct English" and "this is incorrect English". We all have a collection of "rules" we were taught, that we absorbed from people around us, that we made up ourselves. Even if they all held true at some moment in time, the language has shifted since then.

    Saying that there is one right way to say anything in English is very shaky ground to stand on. ("Gotten" is a great example -- a word that is proper and standard American English but archaic or colloquial in British English.)

    We tend to avoid those kinds of pronouncements here. The longer you're around here, the more you'll realize how many things you have taken as fact that are either opinion, misinformation or limited to a particular region, country or variant of English. Even "standard English" is a very fuzzy standard. We have general overlaps in our ideas of what is standard but there is no complete agreement, even on that topic, even by people considered authorities in the language.
     

    Einstein

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    Rikstir,
    we try to standardise the language for the sake of communication, especially in writing, but the rules have fuzzy edges. There are things that everyone considers right, things that everyone considers wrong and things where there are different opinions. The language evolves this way: yesterday's mistakes are today's correct forms and will sound pedantic tomorrow.
    English is an international language and is the property of all those who use it. There are differences in use between one country and another and also within the individual countries. This forum is for comparing points of view. In some discussions we give simple explanations to elementary learners, but there are also discussions on a higher level, even initiated by a non-native in some cases. If you think others are giving answers that are too complex, then instead of criticising them just give a simple answer yourself, which however does not mean declaring that you are the only authority on the English language.

    As for the notion that southern English is more "correct" than northern, don't base your ideas on the BBC or the Queen!

    PS Crossed with JamesM on many points!
     

    Rikstir

    Banned
    English
    Alright let's get back to the origional point. The reason "I was sat" to mean "I was sitting" is wrong, is because "I was sat" means something completelly different. It means someone picked you up and sat you down.

    Yes language does have fluidity but we should be trying to stop it devolve. Standardisation is a good thing and everyone should be taught it. That doesn't mean that is what everyone should speak the same. Do you honestly think I speak like a BBC news reader? Most of the time I'm spouting brocken Mockney and expletives but I know correct English too.

    I think it's fine for people to speak in their own accents (even if I think it sounds ridiclous at times) but it's not okay to write like that. Once you've learnt correct English you can use all the slang and bad grammar you won't with your mates.

    It's okay to say "he drove that car quick" as long as you know that the correct word for that sentence is "quickly" but it's not okay to claim the former is correct English or to teach your peers that this is the case.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    This thread isn't about "quick" as an adverb. However, it's been used as one from the 14th century to the present day, including its use by Shakespeare, Milton, Locke, Pope, Dickens, and Tennyson.

    You seem to have missed the point made in recent posts. There is no sense in your saying as a claimed point of fact: 'The reason "I was sat" to mean "I was sitting" is wrong, is because "I was sat" means something completelly different. It means someone picked you up and sat you down.' I can agree with you that many English speakers will understand and accept that as a valid point of view. However, there are many thousands, perhaps millions, of native English speakers who will cry "nonsense" because in their everyday language "I was sat" means to them what "I was sitting" means to you. You are no more right than they.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I happened to notice an example of this use of "sat" in a British newpaper today. The Daily Mail may not be the best model for English prose writing, but it does reflect how people talk. The rest of the article seems to be in "correct" standard English.

    "Photos on Lawrence's open Facebook profile capture the couple cutting their wedding cake and also show his pet monkey, believed to be a marmoset, sat in a specially-made wooden shelter in a garden."

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/art...pensive-perfume-pet-monkey.html#ixzz3UeZnK35u
     

    AmaryllisBunny

    Senior Member
    Alright let's get back to the original point. The reason "I was sat" to mean "I was sitting" is wrong, is because "I was sat" means something completely different. It means someone picked you up and sat you down.

    I think it's fine for people to speak in their own dialects, (even if I think it sounds ridiculous at times) but it's not okay to write like that. Once you've learned correct English, you can use all the slang and bad grammar you want with your mates.
    =
    Well, it is worth noting as you pointed out, that sat, is a past participle, while sitting is a present participle. Therefore, they would not mean they same thing for that reason... was sat does not imply continuation to the present (time of speech) whereas was sitting does.

    Although I agree that common use for sit is what you stated, it does not invalidate uncommon use.
    ex common use:
    I sat my baby in front of the TV. My baby was sat in front of the TV.
    I sat myself at the dinner table. I was sat [by myself] at the dinner table - seat has become more common use in AmE. Because sat is lower register and seated higher, seated seems more appropriate.
     
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    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    For people from the north of England, where "I was sat" is a thing, is this construction limited to the verb "to sit"?

    Will people say "A man is stood next to me," "I was ate the whole pie," or similar things with any other verb than "sit"? Just curious.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    For people from the north of England, where "I was sat" is a thing, is this construction limited to the verb "to sit"?

    Will people say "A man is stood next to me," "I was ate the whole pie," or similar things with any other verb than "sit"? Just curious.
    I'm no expert on these regional variations, but I was brought up in the Manchester area.

    "The man was stood next to me" is entirely possible and idiomatic, but not "I was ate the pie", in my experience.

    In my view, the use of the past participle for the present participle is common for verbs indicating bodily attitude - to sit, to stand, and also maybe also to lie. I wonder if the illiberal camp would have the same objection to I was bent (rather than I was bending), which is also idiomatic in all forms of BE in my experience.

    Could one make a case for these being past participles used attributively? That seems to me to be what they amount to. I can't see any objection to I was bent over a chair looking for the thimble I'd dropped, when through the window I saw the gamekeeper murder my cat.

    We shouldn't muddle this use (sat for sitting) with the wholesale use of the preterite to act as past participle (I have went for I have gone) which is common in Scotland; I think particularly around Glasgow.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    For people from the north of England, where "I was sat" is a thing, is this construction limited to the verb "to sit"?

    Will people say "A man is stood next to me," "I was ate the whole pie," or similar things with any other verb than "sit"? Just curious.
    The grammar is consistent with standard English grammar, that is, "sat" is used as a direct substitute for "sitting". "To stand" behaves similarly.

    Thus "There I was sat", "I've been stood here for an hour, waiting for you", "Dear Mum, I'm sat here admiring the view from the hotel balcony", "He was stood at the bus stop". Offhand I can't think of other verbs that do this.

    EDIT cross-posted with TT. Thinking about "to lie". I don't think I've heard "I was laid on the bed" to mean "I was lying on the bed".
     
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    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I've just suggested to bend, Andy.

    Here's a nice example from Rupert Thomson, who comes from Eastbourne: Georgia was bent over the basin, throwing up.
    He was on parade with his chin sticking out.
    He was on parade with his chin stuck out.

    They both sound OK to me.
    And neither of those suggestions appears to be particularly northern to me. I must listen out down here in Devon to see if I can find some locals stood or sat about the place. I know just who to engage in conversation. :)
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In the light of these examples, I'm coming round to the view that sat for sitting is entirely idiomatic and natural. I shall use it at every opportunity.

    Why don't the illiberals attack bent for bending and stuck for sticking?

    Interestingly, the Americans use bent for bending, on the evidence of the COCA (AE corpus). Here's a nice example from Driven, a novel by James Sallis:

    A young woman was bent over something that looked like a gymnast's pommel horse, bare butt in the air, eating a burger as the tattooist worked on her.
     

    Einstein

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    About lie/lay:
    The verbs "stand" and "sit" are both intransitive and transitive and therefore admit a passive, hence "was sat" and "was stood". With "lie" and "lay" we have two separate verbs; "I was lain" makes no sense because it would be the passive of an intransitive verb. The correct form would be "I was laid", with all the interpretations that may arise.:D
    "The baby was laid in a cot" sounds all right, but this is a literal passive: he was laid there by his mother.

    PS: There is a gun pointing at you; there is a gun pointed at you.
    Again the verb in question can be both transitive and intransitive.

    PPS: My Lancashire friend said, "There's also 'he was sat sitting there'!" (Rikstir, stay calm ;))
     
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    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    This is an interesting discussion, but it is drifting from the original topic. The thread is now closed while the moderators decide what to do about it.

    Thank you for your patience.

    Cagey
     
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