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Can we start a grassroots revolution against this pernicious abuse of grammar that is taking over the language? I've heard it a number of times on BBC Radio and almost everywhere else.

"I'm stood outside the offices of HMRC."
"I was sat on the train for hours."


"I am standing."
"I was sitting."

"I was sat" is grammatically correct only if used passively. It means somebody else had sat you on the train without your volition or control (and for this reason isn't possible with 'for hours' because it was past-simple, one-off action).

CORRECT: "The mannequin was stood outside the shop to attract customers." (The mannequin was placed there by someone else.)

I appreciate there will be people who'll say, "Oh the language is always evolving and we have to accept new usages." But if we accept this, we lose the difference between active and passive voice. What's next? Abandon tenses?

[PS, I have just finished a large coffee]


  • I agree totally.
  • Ditto.
  • Yes, me too. I always wince when I hear it, but sadly I hear it more and more these days. I remember there was a letter published years ago in Writing Magazine about a winning entry that had used this bad grammar and WM upheld it!!
  • Another peeve: 'I laid on the bed.'

    No, you didn't! You LAY on the bed!

    Also, 'I lead the group...'

    No! You LED them!
  • Only acceptable in dialogue, if that is how that character would speak.
  • Heather – I agree. Same with cliché.
  • I was sat, I was Stood, now I'm in a bad mood.
  • I suspect that accepted usage will mean that the language changes to include these variations. And if language didn't change it would become very boring - it's one of the strengths of our language. 

    I know a children's writer who doesn't ever use a cliché, even in the 'thoughts' of her characters (she is a great writer). BUT the descriptions she uses, whilst excellent and evocative, always stop me while I admire them, instead of helping me move on into the narrative. I think in writing you have to be aware that sometime cliché is exactly what is needed, even if it isn't in dialogue, as being either the the most perfect way to say something, or the quickest without disturbing flow. After all, clichés are exactly that, a shorthand, and most people think in them all the time. It's silly to pretend we don't. As they are so common, prose containing descriptions of everyday things that don't contain cliché all the way through a book would be wrong. However, Cliché plot lines and reactions and story... yes, there I agree!
  • Ref cliché being used by a character - that reminds me of a piece of writing I put out for feedback with another forum. My character used a cliché. It was absolutely right for her to say it, but the worthies on that forum immediately picked up on it. I tried to explain that it was the character not the narrator/writer using the phrase, to no avail. Their blind intransigence really annoyed me.
  • Quite. The writerly jobsworthys! 
  • Yes! They can be a scourge. However, the story was for a competition entry, so I rather crossly changed the line on the grounds that the comp readers might be similarly blinkered. (No, it didn't get placed! :) )
  • Liz – Yes, I think that common usage has already accepted "I was sat" as the norm.

    While it's true that the ability to change is a strength of English, in this case I think we've lost something (the differentiation between active and passive).

    Change is good when it enriches, not impoverishes.

    I wrote a letter to the TLS years ago pointing out that they were using "coruscate" when they meant "excoriate" but nothing changed.

  • Can't bear it when that happens, GG!
  • I've seen journalist, Liz Jones, use 'I was stood'. Why doesn't that sound off to a pro writer? I also can't bear 'bored of'. 
  • The simple past tense is "sat", "stood" etc and it's easy to get it wrong when  "I sat on the chair" is OK.
    As for the comments about "lead" and "led" the difference is present vs past tense. eg" I lead the group now,  Jane led them last week."
  • I think that was Nell's point, Triker - hello, are you new? Welcome. Introduce yourself on the introduction thread! 
  • Hi and welcome, Triker!
  • Hi Triker - we have a cyclist already - I'm sure he'll be glad of the company :)
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