This is a bit of a rant, but I need to get it off my chest.
I seem to have read so many published books and articles lately, which contain phrases such as he was stood outside, she was sat in the kitchen. It’s driving me mad – every time I see this kind of thing it pulls me out of the story and makes my blood pressure rise.
‘was stood’ and ‘was sat’ are never right. It should be: He was standing outside, or He stood outside. And: She was sitting in the kitchen, or She sat in the kitchen.
No one makes this mistake with the past tense of any other verb, do they? I’ve never seen things like ‘He was ran across the field’ or ‘They were swam in the sea’.
I get that it’s a colloquialism, and therefore in dialogue you might use it if it would be natural for your character to do so. ‘He were sat right on top of t’mountain, by gum.’
But not in general prose. I’ve been trying to think of any way in which this kind of construction could ever be correct. The only example I can think of is this:
The cleaners had obviously been moving the ornaments. The china dogs were stood one at each end.
Now I write that, I’m not even sure it’s correct. Even if it is, it’s passive voice so better rewritten as: The cleaners had stood the china dogs one at each end.
What grammatical errors wind you up the most?
That’s so funny eh ba gum and I agree with you completely, Kath. I too have read no end of ‘she was sat and he was stood’ which does make you think the writer is either someone young who’s got away with this as grammar is slipping. Or, maybe a non-English person who has picked up slang. What bugs me is gotten, I’d have gotten over it if he’d given me a ring, for example. It’s modern I know, but I’m an old fashioned lass, eh ba gum. Now I’m going to sit down and have a cuppa.
Gotten is heavily used in America so we may have to forgive that! I will reword a sentence to avoid it, however.
He was shot in the street. She was shot in the car.
Surely it should be he was shot while standing in the street.
She was shot while sitting in the car.
Agreed! Good example.
‘He was ran across the field’, ‘she was shot in the car’ and ‘they were stood outside’ are certainly not equivalent.
First, ‘shot’ can be used as a past participle adjective (compare with ‘there is a broken mirror in the room’; ‘he was a wounded man’). Of course although valid, it is also ambiguous – this poor lady would have also been shot (i.e. still wounded by the bullet) in the ambulance on the way to hospital. If you had read ‘she LAY shot in the car’ it would perhaps have sounded better.
Obviously in the first sentence it’s actually in the passive voice as in ‘she was shot by someone’. Because no one else was mentioned, ‘while she sat’ is entirely unnecessary. The simplest logical meaning of ‘she was shot in the car’ is that the action of shooting took place at the same time as she was sitting in the car. If the agent of the verb had been mentioned, ‘while sitting’ would be necessary to clear up any ambiguity: ‘she was shot by someone in the car’ (as opposed to someone on the street).
Now on to ‘stood’. ‘I was stood outside’ is only valid as a transitive verb in passive voice i.e. someone stood me there. ‘He was ran’ is valid in no context because it’s not a participle (unlike ‘run’ or ‘running’) and is intransitive.
Jens Lyon said:
Anytime I see “he was sat” and “he was stood” I think it’s a typo that the editors missed.
Or didn’t realise was a mistake.
Kate Blackadder said:
A hundred per cent with you, Kath, but I think – I’m afraid – it might be a case of so many folk using it that it becomes accepted.
Nooooo! We must cling to our correct grammar!
Keith Havers said:
I wish the first English lesson that teachers give is that it’s ‘could have’ not ‘could of’. That really winds me up.
Yes, that’s even worse than ‘he was sat’.
Hannah Retallick said:
Amount of people!
Yes! Very irritating.
I am a grammar nerd and proud of it.
Hannah Retallick said:
Haha, me too.