the woman that sat / was sitting on the chair is ...

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olives

Senior Member
Niederländisch
Hello,

I was in a painting gallery with a British friend. My friend said something about a woman in a painting that has intrigued me gramatically speaking.
He said something like: "The woman that sat on the chair is... "

"sat"? and not "was sitting"? Usually you say "He was sitting on the bench" or "I was standing in the bus". You use the present -ing and not the simple present because you may move anytime and go to another place.

When he said this sentence, did he think about the woman as a fix element of the painting, which in this case would probably justify the use of the simple past?
Is it possible to say "The woman who was sitting on the chair is ...". May I consider the woman an alive person?

Many thanks
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    That is an odd use. Could it be that he actually said, 'The woman sat on the chair is...', where 'sat' is the past participle, equivalent to the adjective 'seated'? It is used like this (in BrE at least) as equivalent to an active progressive:

    I've been sat here for ten minutes waiting for you.
    = I've been sitting here for ten minutes waiting for you.
     

    olives

    Senior Member
    Niederländisch
    That would definitely make sense, but I am sure he didn't say "the woman sat on the chair is ...".

    He is from Sheffield.

    He said that you could also say "The woman who was sat on the chair is ... ". I looked up the expression in google. Some people say "he was sat", which may not be recognized as proper English grammar.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    'Sat' is used for 'seated' (as the adjective) colloquially in the north of England, but is not regarded as correct grammar in standard English.

    Perhaps the original words were:
    'The woman that's sat on the chair is...'
    This means:
    'The woman who is seated on the chair is...'
     
    Last edited:

    olives

    Senior Member
    Niederländisch
    we talked about this sentence bit "the woman that sat on the chair". Actually, his sentence was longer than that. He may have used a past participle (as you said) and in his mind he was probably thinking about the rest of the sentence.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Well if he used a simple past 'sat', I'm afraid your grammatical intuition is as good as mine here. I can't think of any good reason for saying finite 'sat' rather than 'was sitting' in this context. As you know, 'the woman that sat on the chair' is appropriate for a single act - it was freshly painted, so now the woman that sat on it has got a white trouser bottom. But in the painting, the woman was sitting on the chair. We do say 'sat' for the whole process of posing for the artist: she sat for Lucian Freud in 1986.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    He said something like: "The woman that sat on the chair is... "
    This seems perfectly fine in American English if her act of sitting actually identifies her.
    The woman that sat on the chair (that was really part of the exhibit and not a real chair at all) is now standing next to the man that wiped his face with my hat.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I vote with wandle: your friend probably said "the woman that's sat":).
     
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