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US English versus UK English
Thread poster: Jane Lamb-Ruiz
Jane Lamb-Ruiz  Identity Verified
French to English
+ ...
Dec 30, 2003

I don't know where to post this as there is no forum for English per se So I hope it's Ok to post this here. I brought this matter up about their not being a place for this but here goes:

I am interested in people's opinion on the following comments I made elswhere. Aren't they reasonable with regard to the use of "small shop versus little store" in British and American English.

"In the UK, people SAY: a small shop. In US English, that's little store or small store. There are some Americans that MIGHT say small shop either in New England or Americans who know British English or some others. Small shop is not common in the US but can be used perfectly well."

Is this not a reasonable statement about ONE difference between British and American English in a conversational mode?

Thanx for you opinions.

One example: A friend of mine happens to own a small children's store near where I live on a major road into Boston. Everyone says it's a store. In England, they would call this a shop, for sure. Is that an unreasonable statement??


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Guy Bray  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:58
Member (2002)
French to English
Amplification Dec 30, 2003

I would agree with your general proposition, but in any event here's a quote from Orin Hargraves's excellent (but badly titled) book "Mighty Fine Words and Smashing Expressions":

"The preference of Britons to say shop where Americans say store is widely known, though occasionally oversimplified. Both words are used in both dialects to designate retail establishments. Americans like shop for (1) small stores, (2) specialty stores, and (3) departments within larger stores that offer a particular line of merchandise. Store holds for just about everything else in American English. British English prefers shop for just about all retail establishments with a street address, except very large ones: department store, originally an Americanism, denotes the same thing in both dialects."


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PB Trans

Local time: 21:58
French to English
+ ...
Canadian English Dec 30, 2003

... and Canadian English falls somewhere in between!

...between our British history and geographical proximity to the US!

Very well explained, Guy!


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Catherine Brix
Local time: 22:58
Swedish to English
+ ...
Good idea Dec 30, 2003

I personally would appreciate a forum where we could discuss or ask about the differences between US and UK English.

As an American living in Sweden I have noticed that Swedes prefer UK English although this in fact seems restricted to spelling options, organisation as opposed to organization, for instance. When I read books by British authors however, major grammatical discrepencies stand out. The verb to be is one instance. As an American I would say "The family is coming to dinner" indicating the family as a unit, while someone from England (as I have observed) would say "The family are coming to dinner" thereby indicating several individuals.

This was a long prelude but my question is:
Would therefore a UK English speaker write
"XX Ltd. are a multinational ..." or
"XX Ltd. is a multinational..." and would you say
"the company are investing in..." or
"the company is investing in..."

And do the British always "take a decision" (as opposed to "making a decision")?

Sorry if these sound like elementary questions, but I sometimes get confused when I read some of the material supposedly written in UK English and published in Sweden.


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Claudia Iglesias  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 18:58
Member (2002)
Spanish to French
+ ...
You're in the right forum Dec 30, 2003

This is the place for this kind of discussions, why not?

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Joanne Parker  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:58
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
I'd agree with Guy Dec 30, 2003

on this one. As a native British speaker, we tend to go "down the shops" rather than to the "store". And yes, I'd say that your general question is correct, we would tend to call a shop a shop, rather than a store.

Guy's comments about our use of "store" are correct. As well as our department stores (which have certainly been called stores for the last 100 years, according to a brochure I happen to own belonging to our local dept store, which recently celebrated its centenary), increasingly we have out of town stores such as toy stores, pet stores etc. These, however, are usually large warehouse-type retailers found outside of town centres and (as another generalisation) tend to originate from the USA.

That said, even if you do buy, I don't know, dog food from one of these large out of town pet stores, you'd still say you got it from a shop, rather than a store.

Hope this helps?

Joanne

[Edited at 2003-12-30 12:05]


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Joanne Parker  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:58
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Make a decision Dec 30, 2003

Mary Brix wrote:

I personally would appreciate a forum where we could discuss or ask about the differences between US and UK English.

As an American living in Sweden I have noticed that Swedes prefer UK English although this in fact seems restricted to spelling options, organisation as opposed to organization, for instance. When I read books by British authors however, major grammatical discrepencies stand out. The verb to be is one instance. As an American I would say "The family is coming to dinner" indicating the family as a unit, while someone from England (as I have observed) would say "The family are coming to dinner" thereby indicating several individuals.

This was a long prelude but my question is:
Would therefore a UK English speaker write
"XX Ltd. are a multinational ..." or
"XX Ltd. is a multinational..." and would you say
"the company are investing in..." or
"the company is investing in..."

And do the British always "take a decision" (as opposed to "making a decision")?

Sorry if these sound like elementary questions, but I sometimes get confused when I read some of the material supposedly written in UK English and published in Sweden.



Hi Mary,

We say "make a decision" in the UK, "taking a decision" is American English. In these parts, at least

Kind regards,

Joanne


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Catherine Brix
Local time: 22:58
Swedish to English
+ ...
I've been making decisions all my life Dec 30, 2003

Hi Joanne,
Mmm, your response was interesting. As an Air Force brat I moved about 15 times in 17 years, living in East Coast, Midwest and Southern States. Throughout, I've always made decisions - and still do. My London-born friend on the other hand always takes decisions.

As already pointed out however, shops are not uncommon in Boston, while I can't imagine my Minnesota-based brother saying anything other than he's "going to the store" - even if he's headed for the pet shop. Maybe the same applies to taking and making decisions.

Best wishes
Mary Catherine


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Jane Lamb-Ruiz  Identity Verified
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
shops, stores and an English forum Dec 30, 2003

I really appreciate this discussion. The other day I posted the topic re an English forum and some answers indicated that the whole site was in English and therefore an English forum was not needed! I wish I could find that post!

Anyway, of course, the shop/store issue is broader than what I originally posted. Department store is the same here and in the UK. And of course, we have the wonderful and delightful Canadians as Pina pointed out. I am happy to see that my shop/store thing is reasonable.

I really think it would be great to have a specific place where English-related questions could be discussed. Just because English is sometimes and in some places some kind of lingua franca doesn't belie the need for an English forum.

Linguistics is fine for discussing linguistics but this usage issue I brought up is not strictly speaking linguistics. But I don't mind. It's nice to have an opportunity to just mention some of the delights of English and its differences.

Actually, an English forum would bring out a lot of interesting discussion. After all, there are so many regional/geographical varieties of it.



[Edited at 2003-12-30 13:59]


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:58
French to English
confirmation and related thoughts (!) Dec 30, 2003

To answer Jane first; both statements seem entirely reasonable to me (UK English, specifically London, FWIW). “Shop” is far more commonly used than store, with the exception of “department store”, as has already been said. Sometimes, you might see “convenience store” in written, more formal contexts instead of “corner shop” or its less PC equivalents. Quite often for “specialist” shops, we don’t bother with the word “shop” at all, e.g. newsagent’s, off-licence, tobacconist’s, grocer’s, florist’s – as in “I’m off down the newsagent’s” (you need the apostrophe since the full version would be ‘newsagent’s shop’). This is mainly a spoken form.

As for the questions about nouns referring to a “unit”: for a company, I would always use the singular, certainly when writing, which I believe is unequivocally grammatically correct, both in US and UK English.
That said, the following SOUNDS quite normal to me (although I would try to avoid WRITING it, I can easily imagine myself SAYING it): “XX Ltd is a multinational company established in 1950. They have (sic) offices in 120 countries.”

As for the comment about “family”, again, I would think that one OUGHT to use the singular, as with any collective noun, but use of the plural does not jar to my ears (or eyes!), although I know that it is “wrong”.

In UK English, this plural usage is not uncommon, and in some situations use of the singular sounds very strange – this is especially true of sports teams, for example. Even in formal written media, it seems to be the norm to always refer to football (soccer) teams in the plural in the UK, e.g. “Manchester United are the champions”, “England (referring to the team) have qualified for Euro 2004”. I’ve seen US sports reports about soccer, and phrases such as “Manchester United is top of the league” just seem wrong.

As I type, I notice one significant difference between the two situations – nouns such as company and family can (and do!) take definite or indefinite articles, and as such can be regarded as “normal” nouns, and, indeed, can be pluralized in their own right. This is probably why they really OUGHT to take singular forms in the examples given, and use of plural forms is probably somewhat lax. Team names do not take articles nor are they pluralized (other than stylistically, as in “the Arsenals and Chelseas of this world”); in the US they are treated like nouns in the style of “company” or “family”, in the UK they are not.

Finally, personally I’m happy with either making or taking a decision.

Finally finally, yes, a forum for English discussions about English (like this one)would be cool, IMHO.

Happy New Year to one and all,
Charlie


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:58
German to English
+ ...
Decisions, decisions Dec 30, 2003

Mary Brix wrote:

Throughout, I've always made decisions - and still do. My London-born friend on the other hand always takes decisions.


I would say there is a subtle difference in meaning in BrE. "Take a decision" refers more to a formal process. "I can't take a decision" means I have to pass it to my boss, or I don't yet have all the necessary facts. "I can't make a decision" means I'm indecisive.

Marc


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Martina Silpoch  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 14:58
English to Czech
+ ...
store-shop, singular-plural Dec 30, 2003

Not being a native any-English, not even sure I should comment, but....
I live in the Midwest and for the last 15 years heard the word "shop" as meaning workshop. You take the car to the shop to get it fixed, in factories and companies the maintenance people operate from a shop. As far as shopping, we go to the store.
To your examples of family is/are....never heard anybody here using plural. There would be certain logic to it, but the expression is considered singular.Americans seem to be masters at simplifying things:)
I have a whole list of British/US differences, but saved in Word form and need some time to remember what web site I found it. Will post it ASAP.
Martina


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Catherine Brix
Local time: 22:58
Swedish to English
+ ...
Do you play "on" or "in" a team? Dec 30, 2003

Hi Charlie,
I'm so glad you brought up the teams issue...tell me, do you play on a team or in a team.

And what about comparisons - do you compare something 'to' or 'with' something else?

I'd personally say that American is different than British English - but it appears to me that a Briton would say that British is different from (sometimes different to) American English.

Maybe these are simply style issues and not actual differences - or are they?

Best wishes for a Happy New Year!


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Lesley Clarke  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 15:58
Spanish to English
foibles Dec 31, 2003

I can't help it, I have no right whatsoever, but so two American terms that I cannot bear are "utilize" and obligate". It seems to me that they should be use and oblige and Americans seem incapable of employing these simple words.

But then George Bernard Shaw said it best: America and Britain are two nations divided by a common language.


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Berni Armstrong  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:58
Member
English
+ ...
Barcelona FC is... or are... Dec 31, 2003

I think the subtleties of English are at play here. There is a tendency when thinking of the institution to use the singular forms. e.g: "Barcelona F.C. is a hundred years old this year!"
However, when thinking of the individuals that make up that organisation we tend to use the plural form. "Barcelona are playing very badly this season!"

Some collectives very rarely use the singular. For example, I cannot think, off hand, of a use for "The police is...." I would always say "The police are investigating...." implying the officers engaged on the case.

I am sure that the English "Monolingual" Kudoz Moderators would welcome some of the pressure being taken off them by an "English Forum" - though keep your flame resistant suits handy guys, "English" arouses some pretty hot passions

Bon any nou from Catalunya,

Berni

PS My pet hate in US English usage is CNN's "momentarily" - as in "We will bring you that report momentarily". In the UK we would say "in a moment".

We use "momentarily" to mean "during a short period of time" (e.g. "The clouds turned a pale salmon colour, momentarily edged with silver and purple, before the sun finally set")


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