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Usually, to avoid any ambiguities, I'd say 'waiting in the queue', however I came across 'sitting in a queue' and wanted to know whether it's correct or incorrect English.

Is it used? And if yes, in what context/s?


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Yes it is, but generally more so in certain contexts. For example, if I'm stuck in traffic I would say "sitting in queue", but I probably wouldn't use the word 'sitting' if I was talking about waiting for a teller at a bank. – Simba Feb 24 at 16:14
It is, however, uncommon to hear in North America. If I'm stuck in traffic I say "I'm stuck in traffic." or "There is a huge line of traffic." – Rick Henderson Feb 24 at 16:54
@RickHenderson Well in North America, it's uncommon to use the word "queue," but that doesn't seem to be what the OP is asking about. – Daniel Feb 24 at 20:44
@RickHenderson Only because, in North America, "queue" isn't generally used. People would think you're talking about a pool cue. North Americans use "line" instead of "queue." And "sitting in line" or "sitting in a line" are common and correct phrases over here. – HopelessN00b Feb 24 at 22:35
@HopelessN00b Maybe you don't - programmers definitely use it though. ;) – neminem Feb 25 at 0:06

I'm from the UK and "Sitting in a queue" is a perfectly normal thing to say.

Sometimes the word "sitting" can be used to mean "staying in one place" (like you might sit an object on a table). In this sense, people might say that they were "sitting in the queue for hours", even if they spent the entire time standing up: "sitting" in this usage means that the queue was moving so slow that they spent extended periods of time not moving at all. Also, of course, they might mean that they were actually sitting down: this might refer to the type of queueing system where you take a ticket and sit down and wait for your ticket's number to be called.

The phrase "sitting in a queue" is also often used to describe inanimate objects, or even virtual objects, such as emails, helpdesk tickets etc. For example:

"Did you deal with that purchase order problem yet?" "No, it's been sitting in my queue since tuesday"

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Sit an object on a table? Really? I haven't heard that usage. Where in the UK are you from? Would this be similar to the (also strange to my ears) I'm sat here to mean I'm sitting here? – terdon Feb 24 at 12:00
I've heard it used like "Where shall i put this box?", "Sit it on the table thanks." Now that i think about it more, i think it's a misuse of "sit" as a replacement for "set", meaning "place it on the table", but it does appear to be recognised as a valid word, here at least dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/sit - see the Thesaurus section. – Max Williams Feb 24 at 12:05
@Terdon edit I didn't see Max's comment that I would also say but it probably comes about because you say: "I set the cup on the table." and "My cup was sitting on the table." – Rick Henderson Feb 24 at 16:50
@RickHenderson some UK regional dialects use sit in odd ways. I mentioned I'm sat here in my previous comment. This is likely another example of that. – terdon Feb 24 at 16:53
Then of course there's "We were stood standing in the queue for hours," which is one of my favorite UK emphasis phrases... – T.J. Crowder Feb 24 at 18:05

It is perfectly correct English. I do it every morning on the way to work.

The phrase is often used for circumstances such a a queue of traffic. You are sitting in your car in a queue.

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This is the most common use in my opinion. Whilst the examples in @Max Williams answer wouldn't sound weird to me if I heard them, I don't think I ever have, or would use it myself. – Adi Bradfield Feb 24 at 15:16
Good point that I'm sitting in a queue can also be a short form of I am sitting and also in a queue rather than describing how you are going about the queueing itself. – Matthew Read Feb 24 at 20:19

There are two common types of queue I am often in - people in a line (eg at the bank) and cars on a busy road. Usually, saying that I am in a queue implies that I am (of course) waiting. So usually I would not say that I am 'waiting' in a queue.

When it is a queue of people - I'm in a queue/ I'm queuing (waiting is understood). Or, I'm in a queue waiting ... (to be served). If the queue is moving too slowly you might say I've been stood/waiting in this queue for ages.

When it is a queue of cars - I'm in a queue/ I'm queuing (waiting is understood). Or, I'm in a queue waiting ... (to join the motorway). If the queue is moving too slowly you might say I've been stuck/sitting in this queue for ages. (NB In a car I would not ordinarily say that I am 'waiting' in the queue).

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another common type of queue: A telephone system. I would tend to use the phrase "sitting in a queue" for that too, especially if I had to wait a long time. – Simba Feb 24 at 16:16

Sitting in a queue is definitely proper english when used in proper context. however a good look at the definition for "sitting" and "queue" Straight from the Oxford Dictionary is a great idea as some usage may not be suitable nor proper english.

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/english/sitting http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/english/queue

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Sure, it's correct. You need not be resting your derrière on a bench or chair to be sitting.

See, for example,

  • Meaning #6 at Collins (sit [v.] to be situated or located),
  • Meaning #2 at Macmillan (sit [v.] to be in a particular situation or condition for a period of time),
  • Meaning #1.9 at Oxford (sit [v.] be or remain in a particular position or state).

That said, standing might be a better word, particularly if you're standing upright, and only in the queue for five minutes or so. But sitting is not (to quote your title) "incorrect English."

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If, for example, I was waiting to see a doctor -- where there's a queue (even with appointments, since the doctor almost always runs over time) and those waiting in the queue will be actually sitting waiting for their turn, if I was talking to someone on the phone I might say to them "I am sitting in a queue".

But if I was standing in a queue, I wouldn't normally describe that as sitting (I consider it if I was trying to use the word "sit" in a slightly different sense, that of being situated in some place -- but I'd usually tend to avoid it in this context, not least for the hope of avoiding ambiguity).

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