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Is this statement incorrect? "I'm a former English major"

Is "I'm an English major" a better way to say it?

Isn't the fact that a person majored in English make the usage of the word "former" is inappropriate?

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  • If you're still in college, you're an English major. If you graduated, you're not, the same way you're no longer a college student.
    – Robusto
    May 13, 2015 at 1:30
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    "former" makes it sound like you shifted majors. If you graduated from that major, maybe you can say "I majored in English." May 13, 2015 at 1:36

4 Answers 4

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It sounds as if you changed your major. If instead, you graduated, you'd be better served by saying "I majored in English." But why am I telling you? You were an English major!

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I think that all comes down to whether or not a person finished the degree.

"I'm a former English major" means to me "I used to be an English major and then I switched" whereas "I am an English major" would sound like "I am currently in school working on an English degree."

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This statement is actually completely incorrect. It implies that you physically are a major—an area of study. You can't be an area of study. This is one of the biggest pet peeves of collegiate newspapers in modern times.

The correct way to say this is "I majored in English" or, keeping the word former, "I formerly majored in English."

Using former in the sentence while you already have a past-tense verb is not incorrect. Sure, it isn't the most concise or clear way of stating it, but you can still use it there.

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  • See definition 3.1 here for the noun "major": oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/major
    – herisson
    May 13, 2015 at 5:03
  • @sumelic That definition must be regional because I've never heard of it as a correct usage from all the places I've been.
    – Adam
    May 13, 2015 at 5:10
  • OED does say "originally US", so maybe it is regional in that sense? Anyway, I (in the US) certainly have frequently heard it.
    – GEdgar
    May 13, 2015 at 13:15
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I was an English major

I think this implies you majored in English in the past, rather than changing your majors. I agree "former" does sound a bit like you changed majors:

I'm a former English major, now I major in politics.

(note that major is used both as a noun and a verb in the above sentence)

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