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American versus British question

A sentence such as, “The Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra entertained a crowd of over 500 Saturday evening,” makes perfect grammatical sense in American English, and the construction is commonplace in newspapers. An alternative would be: “...crowd of over 500 on Saturday evening.” (addition of “on”)

Since I am British-Canadian, and am doing copy for local press now, I have to be careful to use British English consistently, and I am unsure whether the former construction is standard British English. Certainly the latter is.

Any opinions?

  • April 17, 2005
  • Posted by dave
  • Filed in Grammar

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The shortened construction has been standard US form for many years, but is being seen more often in Britain nowadays especaily in quality papers. I'm still not used to it, and usually have to reread the sentence in which it appears. For me, this detracts from the pleasure of reading perhaps an otherwise interesting piece. But I guess that's what called progress nowadays. Bottom line: the shortened form is not yet standard British form, but it's getting that way in papers at least, if not in the spoken word. I for one regret this change.

a.rankine April 18, 2005, 1:22am

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Heh, this is almost like in Japanese where you usually don't use "ni" (to) when specifying a time.

I do see a parallelism issue here. While other prepositions may work, you can't use "on" with "yesterday", "today", etc.

IngisKahn April 18, 2005, 3:39am

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Even if the omission is seen as correct, you should probably keep the 'on'. It reads far better, and I imagine the 'on' is practically invisible to people who don't use it.

Persephone Imytholin April 18, 2005, 4:25am

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Persephone is an American English speaker, I had to read twice to see the difference! I say leave in the "on" if it is the British English preference.

CQ April 18, 2005, 4:41am

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Both ways work for me also, and, like CQ, I had to read twice to catch the "on." I agree, use the "on" if you think it sounds better.

speedwell2 April 18, 2005, 4:48am

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yeah it is like taking the ni out of a japanese sentence like watashi wa nihon de nigatsu nishyuu kan gurai ni imasu.

Anonymous June 17, 2005, 2:12am

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As for me, I am with Japan on about February two weeks?

You need ni after Nihon and no ni after nishuukan: Nihon ni nigatsu ni nishuukan gurai imasu. -- I am in Japan for about two weeks in February.

I said the case was *almost* like Japanese :)
Turning into PainInTheJapanese...

Further OT:
This reminds me of my favorite Japanese phrase:
Niwa ni wa niwa niwatori ga iru. -- There are two chickens in the garden.

IngisKahn June 17, 2005, 3:43pm

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To the citizens of the United States of America from Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II:

In light of your immediate failure to financially manage yourselves and also in recent years your tendency to elect incompetent Presidents of the USA and therefore not able to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately.
(You should look up 'revocation' in the Oxford English Dictionary.)

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except Kansas, which she does not fancy).

Your new Prime Minister, David Cameron, will appoint a Governor for America without the need for further elections.

Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire may be circulated sometime next year to determine whether any of you noticed.

To aid in the transition to a British Crown dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'colour,' 'favour,' 'labour' and 'neighbour.' Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters, and the suffix '-ize' will be replaced by the suffix '-ise.' Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (look up 'vocabulary').
2. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as ''like' and 'you know' is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. There is no such thing as U.S. English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take into account the reinstated letter 'u'' and the elimination of '-ize.'
3. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.
4. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not quite ready to be independent. Guns should only be used for shooting grouse. If you can't sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist,then you're not ready to shoot grouse.
5. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. Although a permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.
6. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left side with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.
7. The former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline) of roughly $10/US gallon. Get used to it.
8. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.
9. The cold, tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. New Zealand beer is also acceptable, as New Zealand is pound for pound the greatest sporting nation on earth and it can only be due to the beer. They are also part of the British Commonwealth - see what it did for them. American brands will be referred to as Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine, so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.
10. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie Macdowell attempt English dialogue in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to having one's ears removed with a cheese grater.
11. You will cease playing American football. There are only two kinds of proper football; one you call soccer, and rugby (dominated by the New Zealanders). Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies).
12. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.1% of you are aware there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the Australians (World dominators) first to take the sting out of their deliveries.
13. You must tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad.
14. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776).
15. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 p.m. with proper cups, with saucers, and never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; plus strawberries (with cream) when in season.
God Save the Queen!

Hairy Scot October 21, 2012, 10:33pm

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Hairy Scot October 21, 2012, 10:33pm

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@Hairy Scot - joking aside, although I "-ise" every verb I possibly can, I also recognise that in British English we have a choice - and "-ize" is not in fact an Americanism. All Oxford University publications including, no doubt, your beloved OED use " -ize" as standard, and so until recently did the (London) Times. Nor I think, is there anything particularly American about "you know" and the use of "like" as a filler has been around in Britain since the late '60s, I remember using it in my hippy days, and I recently heard it on a British radio comedy recorded in 1961.

I'm not sure Brits are in any position to have a dig at Americans for vocabulary, unless you're Stephen Fry, that is.

As for going metric, we only half embraced it in Britain. You buy a 500ml bottle of beer in a shop, but a pint in a pub. Footpaths are signposted in kilometres, but roads are in miles, and you can still buy your loose ham in Imperial. And how about this headline from the Sun - "Lauren Peberdy was stunned when she gave birth to an 8lb 7oz baby boy"

Do you really want to force Americans to eat our chips: the ones that lie around in that animal fat for an hour or so? Don't they have heath problems enough already? Why not get them to eat chip butties while you're at it, or that West of Scotland delicacy, the deep-fried Mars Bar. (I kid you not). By the way, in Edinburgh chips are eaten with "sos" (sauce), a sort of vinegary HP, not vinegar. Personally I prefer proper "frites" (preferably made in Belgium, and topped with mayonnaise), with the occasional chips and "sos" for nostalgia's sake.

As for the rest of your joke, I'll leave it to our cousins across the water to decide on that one. I just hope, for your sake, they remember that irony is an important ingredient of British humour. But so is self-deprecation, which seems somewhat lacking here.

Warsaw Will October 23, 2012, 6:23am

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@Warsaw Will

I must confess that I am not the author of the "email", and I do make use of both irony and self-deprecation as and when appropriate.

It should of course be remembered that while WE do irony WE do not do self-deprecation terribly well.


Hairy Scot October 23, 2012, 6:29am

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For the original author (hint: it's not John Cleese), plus several alternate versions and two American rebuttals, see:

porsche October 23, 2012, 9:16am

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Jasper October 23, 2012, 1:30pm

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@Hairy Scot - I'm so glad to hear it. Silly me for being a bit ignorant on these matters. And thanks to porshe for your link. It rather reminds me of this "EU directive", which has also done the email rounds:

Warsaw Will October 26, 2012, 7:22am

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