to and fro

panjandrum

Occasional Moderator
English-Ireland (top end)
In a report on the recent tragic helicopter crash in the North Sea, one of the interviewees talked about helicopters "... ferrying passengers to and fro Aberdeen."

I know what he meant:
... to Aberdeen from the oil platform,
... fro(m) Aberdeen to the oil platform.

I also know that for me "to and fro" does not normally take an object. Something moves "to and fro", one way then another, without there being a place it moves to, or a place it moves from.

I wonder if there is anywhere else where the original sentence, said by a Scot, would sound entirely natural.
 
  • Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Actually, I've heard that exact expression said by a friend in Newfoundland. Of course, Newfoundland still has its very distinct dialects which are all based on Celtic, Gaelic, you-name-it languages, so perhaps this is a holdover of some sort.
     

    R1chard

    Senior Member
    UK
    British English
    To and fro is common enough. You could say, for example, the lamp was swinging to and fro as the person holding it approached.

    I think you could probably use it anywhere where you might use back and forth.

    You could also use it in a more verbal sense such as the stock market has been toing and froing all day meaning the stock market has been very volatile today.

    Richard
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    I'm familiar with "frae" as a Scots version of "from". Perhaps it's just a variation of this, and the similarity between the set phrase "to and fro" is incidental.

    E.g. Broon frae Troon (Brown from Troon [a town in Ayrshire]).
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    To and fro is common enough. You could say, for example, the lamp was swinging to and fro as the person holding it approached.

    I think you could probably use it anywhere where you might use back and forth.

    You could also use it in a more verbal sense such as the stock market has been toing and froing all day meaning the stock market has been very volatile today.

    Richard
    That's entirely familiar, but it's not the kind of use I am asking about.
    I want to know if "... to and fro <object>" is used in your variety of English.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I agree with you, panj. "To and fro" sounds very strange with an object...
     

    R1chard

    Senior Member
    UK
    British English
    I wouldn't say that to and fro is perculiarly Scottish as it would be well understood and used throughout Great Britain (certainly in England and Wales) - although it probably originated in Scotland.

    Richard T
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I'm familiar with "frae" as a Scots version of "from". Perhaps it's just a variation of this, and the similarity between the set phrase "to and fro" is incidental.

    E.g. Broon frae Troon (Brown from Troon [a town in Ayrshire]).
    Good point. The OED lists fro as a frae/from variant. I hadn't thought of looking outside the phrase.

    However :) the phrase "to and fro" is also listed without any Scottish influence as:
    To and from (a place); alternately to and from each of (two places): now rare.

    OED examples:
    1574 Calr. Laing Charters (1899) 225 Ane gait to cum and gang to and fra the same.
    1598 HAKLUYT Voy. I. 109 Messengers going and comming to and fro the Court of Baatu.
    1860
    READE 8th Commandm. 123 Counsel, who were continually flashing to and fro London and Croydon.
    1885
    JEFFERIES Open Air (1890) 126 The stream of lawyers..rushing to and fro the Temple and the New Law Courts.
     

    R1chard

    Senior Member
    UK
    British English
    That's entirely familiar, but it's not the kind of use I am asking about.
    I want to know if "... to and fro <object>" is used in your variety of English.
    I see what you mean now.

    In the example you gave I think that it was understood that the helicopter had ferried passengers from the oil platform and therefore the object Aberdeen was needed to complete the sense of going to and from specific places.

    So yes, I think it could take an object such I've been going to and fro the shops all day suggesting I've spent all day going from where I usually am to the shops. But all the examples I can think of imply some sort of travelling.

    Richard T
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Being a few miles from Scotland, I've never heard 'to and fro' used with an object.
    R1chard said:
    ...I've been going to and fro the shops all day suggesting I've spent all day going from where I usually am to the shops. But all the examples I can think of imply some sort of travelling.
    Is that somewhat like saying that all expressions with round and round and up and down imply some sort of motion, especially if it comes right after going? Do you mean that you can think of real examples, or that you can think up sentences that could, in theory, use to and fro <object> ?
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    I can't remember ever hearing "to and fro" with an object. "To and from", yes, but not "to and fro". "To and fro" with an object sounds as odd to me as "hither and thither" with an object. They are both vague phrases that describe an action but not a location.
     

    R1chard

    Senior Member
    UK
    British English
    Do you mean that you can think of real examples, or that you can think up sentences that could, in theory, use to and fro <object> ?
    Is there a difference between "real examples" and sentences that can "in theory use to and fro"?

    As I said, I can think of examples but the object is always a place, such as:
    I shall be going to and fro the beach when the weather gets better; I spent two hours driving to and fro the station collecting the wedding guests.

    When I think about it more there seems to be a little tension in the phrase to and fro suggesting that the activity of going to and fro is mildly frenetic when compared with to and from.

    Richard
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    As I said, I can think of examples but the object is always a place, such as:
    I shall be going to and fro the beach when the weather gets better; I spent two hours driving to and fro the station collecting the wedding guests.
    That's interesting, Richard. I'm wondering if there's a regional* issue here - which part of the UK are you from?

    *not necessarily Scottish:)
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Thanks, Loob, for bringing this thread back towards the topic.

    I am not looking for an explanation of to and fro <place>, or examples of how it might be used. I am really interested in WHERE it is a natural part of day-to-day usage.

    It sounds fine to me, but it's not a regular part of my English.
    I assume it is natural to the Scottish interviewee.
     

    R1chard

    Senior Member
    UK
    British English
    That's interesting, Richard. I'm wondering if there's a regional* issue here - which part of the UK are you from?

    *not necessarily Scottish:)
    I have lived in the south of England, the north of England and South Wales but never Scotland although I have worked there.

    I don't feel that to and fro has a particularly regional feel to it - not, for example, in the way that I am aware of English language Welsh idioms when I use them - and although I don't think it's an expression I use with any regularity I certainly don't feel anyone would fail to understand me if I did.

    Richard
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    USA English
    "To and fro Little Rock" would sound very strange to me, but with Aberdeen it seems more natural. :)

    I have never heard "to and fro" used with its own object.

    "Back and forth Little Rock" would sound equally strange. Where I live, "back and forth between ... and ..." is the norm, and "to and fro between ... and ..." would not be very strange.

    When the other end of the round trips is implied, like the oil platform or whatever in the original example, I would say "back and forth to ..." or "back and forth from ...". "To and fro" for "back and forth" in this case too would not be too strange. The to or from that follows is unstressed, but fro and the other to are both stressed.
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    ...

    I don't feel that to and fro has a particularly regional feel to it -
    ...
    I agree with you.
    The expression "to and fro" has no particular regionality.

    But that is not what I am asking about.

    I want to know if people in Oxford routinely talk about the coaches travelling to and fro London - if people in Southampton talk about ferries going to and fro the Isle of Wight - if people in Vancouver talk about the skyride going to and fro Grouse Mountain.

    I want to know where, if anywhere (other than Scotland) it is normal English to say "... to and fro <somewhere> ...".
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Panj, maybe this site gives a clue:
    [...]
    These days to and fro, back and forth, is a fossil phrase that has to be explained in dictionaries because we have completely lost fro in mainstream English. However, fro is still around in Scottish and Northern English dialect, though usually spelled and said fra; it isn’t a dialectal pronunciation of from.
     

    R1chard

    Senior Member
    UK
    British English
    I want to know where, if anywhere (other than Scotland) it is normal English to say "... to and fro <somewhere> ...".
    Just about anywhere!

    Here is an example from the Birmingham site for Gumtree:
    Van and Man to and Fro West Midlands

    Here is another one, this time from the London site of Gumtree:
    PAUL&CO REMOVALS/COLLECTIONS AND DELIVERY TO AND FRO LONDON

    Here's one on MySpace that mentions Oxford:
    O BBZZZ!
    we needs to sort out how we're getting to and fro' oxford on friday


    Here's an example from someone in Singapore:
    Any parents need me to fetch your child to and fro school?

    And from The Hindu in India:
    With the enforcement agencies offering little, the only ray of hope now lies in the initiative which has been taken by the Delhi Government for chalking out a strategy so children are provided a safer means of travel to and fro school.

    And this from the American author Maura Conlon-McIver:
    Back in the 1930s, the Queen sailed to and fro New York City -- my mom's home town -- and Southampton, England. Mom, as a teenager, watched the shimmering ship on many a beach walk.

    Here's a quote on an expatriate website in France from someone who says they are Asian American:
    I have been traveling to and fro Paris since about 2003 but moved here March 2009.

    And finally here's one from an Australian Honda owner's forum:
    Like every new owner, I too marvel at how shining and new the black Euro looks. I do my washes quite often (as I travel to and fro Sydney and Canberra weekly) about 1 or 2 times a week...

    Maybe they are all pretending to be Scottish.;)

    Richard
     

    brian

    Senior Member
    AmE (New Orleans)
    I want to know where, if anywhere (other than Scotland) it is normal English to say "... to and fro <somewhere> ...".
    I've never heard it used anywhere in the States (well, in my life, for that matter), even though, for the record, to & fro sans object is still pretty common here.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Just about anywhere!

    Here is an example from the Birmingham site for Gumtree:
    Van and Man to and Fro West Midlands

    Here is another one, this time from the London site of Gumtree:
    PAUL&CO REMOVALS/COLLECTIONS AND DELIVERY TO AND FRO LONDON

    Here's one on MySpace that mentions Oxford:
    O BBZZZ!
    we needs to sort out how we're getting to and fro' oxford on friday

    Here's an example from someone in Singapore:
    Any parents need me to fetch your child to and fro school?

    And from The Hindu in India:
    With the enforcement agencies offering little, the only ray of hope now lies in the initiative which has been taken by the Delhi Government for chalking out a strategy so children are provided a safer means of travel to and fro school.

    And this from the American author Maura Conlon-McIver:
    Back in the 1930s, the Queen sailed to and fro New York City -- my mom's home town -- and Southampton, England. Mom, as a teenager, watched the shimmering ship on many a beach walk.

    Here's a quote on an expatriate website in France from someone who says they are Asian American:
    I have been traveling to and fro Paris since about 2003 but moved here March 2009.

    And finally here's one from an Australian Honda owner's forum:
    Like every new owner, I too marvel at how shining and new the black Euro looks. I do my washes quite often (as I travel to and fro Sydney and Canberra weekly) about 1 or 2 times a week...

    Maybe they are all pretending to be Scottish.;)

    Richard
    The trick is, though, that "to and from" is fairly common in AE and "to and fro" is a simple dropped letter away. This will be a difficult one to settle, I think, because it takes more than the printed word to indicate that it is a normal use of the phrase for a region.
     

    lrosa

    Senior Member
    English - Ireland
    I wonder did the Scottish interviewee have a particularly thick Scottish accent? Did he throw in many local phrases that sounded a bit irregular, or maybe he only said one sentence?
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I wonder did the Scottish interviewee have a particularly thick Scottish accent? Did he throw in many local phrases that sounded a bit irregular, or maybe he only said one sentence?
    It was a fluent, eloquent, educated Scots accent.

    I have also heard this used by Scottish colleagues who are accustomed to communicating with non-Scots :)
     

    Roqsbox

    New Member
    English
    I also know that for me "to and fro" does not normally take an object. Something moves "to and fro", one way then another, without there being a place it moves to, or a place it moves from.
    1598 HAKLUYT Voy. I. 109 Messengers going and comming to and fro the Court of Baatu. (Source – OED)
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    1598HAKLUYT Voy. I. 109 Messengers going and comming to and fro the Court of Baatu. (Source – OED)
    This quote was given in post #8 already.

    And to add to the belated discussion, I've never heard this used with an object either in the north (west) of England, but I have read it at times in earlier English texts in the north, because it's a Scandnavian expression brought by the Vikings, that was (and still is) used naturally with objects in languages that still have it. Maybe it hung on in Scotland more and continues into usage there, I wouldn't consider it standard though (as has already been well established here anyway).
     
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