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In BrE, one can apparently use I'm sat here to mean I'm sitting here. This seems to be a relatively modern usage:

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I had originally thought that this was a regional or dialectical variant and had asked a question about this, but the discussion in the comments and the fact that I found many occurrences of the phrase in print (searching Google Books) suggest that it is in fact quite widespread:

Don't think: I'm sat here waiting for my plays to be produced; think: I am sat here waiting to write those plays that can only be produced, now. [source]

I'm sat here in Vittles waiting for a second pot of tea, and life is OK, on the whole. [source]

I'm sat here, in the back of a van with my Thermos full of hot tea, protecting a car-park. [source]

And it'sonly now that I'm sat here to with Emma that the absurdity of what I'm doing is starting hit home. [source]

I'm sat here watching and listening to them talk. [source]

When I'm sat beside his grave / The reason I'm sat here crying / Is for the life I couldn't save. [source]

I'm sat here, tears running down my face and no one asks if I'm okay. [source]

However, it was suggested in the comments (1, 2) that there may be a difference in meaning between I'm sat here and I am sitting here with the former beeing more negative. Perhaps because it implies a certain "passivity", that the person so sitting was placed there as opposed to having chosen to sit. While some of the examples I found and am quoting above do seem to be negative, I don't see evidence of such a trend.

So, my question here is i) is there actually any difference between I'm sat here and I'm sitting here and, ii) if so, does the former have some sort of negative connotation?


Please note that this is about the specific usage of sat to replace sitting and not for cases such as "I sat the baby down".

It is also not a duplicate of Is "I am sat" bad English? which is asking whether I'm sat is "good English". I am instead asking whether there is any subtle difference in usage between the two.

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    Possible duplicate of Is "I am sat" bad English? Jul 9, 2016 at 16:30
  • 2
    @EdwinAshworth no, it's not a dupe. I'm not asking whether it is "good English" or even acceptable usage, I know it is common in BrE and in a previous question two users suggested in the comments that there may be differences in nuance between the two. It is those differences I am asking about here.
    – terdon
    Jul 9, 2016 at 17:30
  • These Google Ngrams give an idea of how common the usage actually is. Jul 9, 2016 at 18:00
  • @EdwinAshworth is that supposed to be a joke or did you just forget to add a space between the two search phrases? In any case, again, I am well aware of which of the two is more common, but that has absolutely no bearing on the question at hand. I want to know whether there is any difference between the two for people who use both. I would never say I'm sat here so it's hard for me to judge.
    – terdon
    Jul 9, 2016 at 18:04
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    Colin Fine's answer: << Forms like "I am sat here" and "they were stood there" are common in certain dialects of English (such as Yorkshire, where I live), but are not regarded as standard English, which prefers "I am sitting here" and "they were standing there". >> + Loob's comments above about the long history of the regional use of 'was sat' and 'destandardisation' by eg the BBC address the question, but there is nothing in the way of an authoritative / well-researched article. // I referred back to the previous thread because acceptability needs defining first. Jul 9, 2016 at 18:18

5 Answers 5

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Ignoring the grammarian 'it is wrong' response, the 'standard' (for want of a better term) answer is that it is a quasi-passive. Fowler, for example, explains it as such in his Pocket Modern English Usage. The basic idea is that sentences such as "someone broke the car" and "the car needs fixing" are passive-like in function though not form as the actor is external and/or unknown.

Maybe more relevantly, the same idea allows the passive voice to have a continuum of function for the past participle from adjective-like to verb-like. In this, sentences like "I'm sat/I'm stood" are more adjective-like in function while "I'm sitting/I'm standing" are obviously more verb-like.

In short, "I'm sat here" is similar to "I'm big" or "I'm tall" - you are describing yourself more than saying what activity you are engaged in. In contrast "I'm sitting here" is saying what you are doing.

In the spirit of being fair, I am not 100% convinced by this explanation but neither can I think of a better one.

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  • Interesting, thanks. So are you suggesting that its passive nature makes it carry slightly negative connotations? Also, the Fowler quote is hidden for me. Would it be possible to reproduce it in your answer?
    – terdon
    Jul 9, 2016 at 18:13
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    You are welcome. As I understand the argument (and keeping in mind that my field is language aquisition rather than this kind of stuff...) the difference is in the function of the phrase. "I'm sat here" leans towards your situation or state similar to "I'm angry", but "I'm siitting here" describes your action, similar to "I'm waiting". Jul 9, 2016 at 18:24
  • "In contrast \"I'm sitting here\" is saying what you are doing." In that case, one would say "I was seated" or "I waited in my seat". Furthermore I have never heard "I am sat" uttered by any North American. I've only heard this spoken from British television (not written) so it seems to be non-standard English (though getting more popular in slang/vernacular)
    – Noon Time
    Jan 3, 2020 at 7:16
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I feel a little uncomfortable posting this as an answer, because it involves the death of a young man, and I don't mean to belittle his demise. However, from purely a linguistic point of view, the headline is of some interest.

The Mail Online, a British Newspaper tabloid, has the following sad title (Jul 10th 2016 2PM)

Pictured: Wife who was sat in the crowd as her Spanish matador husband was gored to death - the first bullfighter killed in 30 years

I'm pretty sure, ten or twenty years ago, the headline would have been

Pictured: Wife who was seated in the crowd ...

The construction, I believe, helps emphasise that the wife was one of hundreds (or thousands) of spectators in the bullfighting arena.

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  • Hmm yes, also, perhaps, that she was sitting there helpless.
    – terdon
    Jul 10, 2016 at 13:04
  • @terdon yes, that's a good way of putting it.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 10, 2016 at 13:06
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"I'm sat" assumes that 'sat' is the passive participle of 'sit', which requires that 'sit' be a transitive verb. (In AmE, 'set' is transitive, but 'sit' is not.)

Since "I'm sat" is passive, it means that someone put you in a sitting position, but that someone was not necessarily you, yourself; whereas "I'm sitting" means that you 'sat' yourself.

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  • This is certainly how I would interpret it, but judging by the question and other replies, a recent usage has developed where the connotation of having been put there is no longer present. Can that connotation still be present for those speakers? Mar 10, 2018 at 6:11
  • I think the connotation is still present -- you were seated there by someone. What is unknown is whether the agent was yourself or someone else (and the corresponding changes to the meaning of 'to seat'). Language means whatever we [all] agree it to mean, so changes to grammar should not be made lightly.
    – AmI
    Mar 12, 2018 at 20:40
  • Why wouldn't one say "I was seated"? Which means someone put them in a seat? Or "I'm seated", someone put me in a seat which I am in right now. "I'm sat" just sounds very 'Only Way is Essex'-ish. Equivalent of an American saying "So I says to myself..." or "He done messed up", wrong tense but popular colloquialism.
    – Noon Time
    Jan 3, 2020 at 7:25
  • Perhaps you were seated, without your own volition? May 23, 2020 at 16:46
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Perhaps it is meant in the present tense with almost mocking sense rather than negative connotation. Passive, helpless I'm not sure about, could be mutual gatherings. Sort of like being in a conversation with someone or a small group, you want to jump in with something witty or anything else.

The phrase would be a stark intro to catch the attention, i.e. "So now I've sat here and listened to you rattle on about this nonsense with getting...." In response to what the other individual(s) were talking about.

Friends of mine from the UK (I live in the USA) use it that way. Especially when the other is full of it and you kinda want to tease them about it. It is a phrase that plays into the culture of dry brit humor, and sometimes in dismay, "So now I've sat here for an hour fighting these lousy teams, only to get a meh reward."

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-1

"I'm sat here" is a Britishism or UK colloquial slang, as demonstrated by your chart. People have been sitting or seated by others for as long as chairs existed, but yet this type of action wasn't typically described in writing up until 30 years ago? It is non-standard English. If it appears in novels, it's probably to lend an air of casual youthful prose. You'd be hard-pressed to find it written in established newspapers. In short, it's wrong. Just like pronouncing the letter "H" as "haytch" instead of "aytch".

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    OP is asking about differences in meaning between the two forms. If you want to comment on the acceptability of "I'm sat here", the correct place would be at the 'Is "I am sat" bad English?' thread, but note that ELU regards answers not accompanied by supporting references / statistics as inadequate. Jan 3, 2020 at 13:28
  • There's a difference between slang and dialect; the former relates to a particular group or context/activity and the latter to a geographical area. And it's certainly found in at least one established British newspaper, admittedly in less formal contexts such as reportage.
    – Stuart F
    3 hours ago

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