If I were an Englishman I wouldn't prefer a "B plan" to a "plan B".
Why is it so?

  • 5
    Because "B" here is used as an ordinal value; it's effectively the same as "plan #2". We say "plan B" for the same reason we say "plan 2", and we don't say "B plan" for the same reasons we don't say "2 plan". Just in case the thought got into your head, the "B" doesn't stand for "backup", it's simply the 2nd letter of the alphabet. The original, primary plan would be "Plan A".
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 13:44
  • Also, I can see ambiguity creeping in. E.g. "A plan did not work" does that mean simply that 'a plan did not work' or the first plan did not work?
    – Gary
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 14:53
  • Because "plan B" is an idiom.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 16:35
  • 1
    No, if you were an Englishman, you would prefer a plan B to a B plan, because a B plan would be something entirely different. One thing is that it’s just idiomatic—quite another is that your question is based on a false premise. I see no reason why B plan should be any more logical than plan B. As @Dan says, enumerations like this are nearly always postpositioned in English. Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 16:51
  • Of course, it's the "A Team".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 19:26

1 Answer 1


While there is no "rule", one can obtain some guidance from observing that, in "plan B", we are not speaking of a plan named "B", but rather simply the second plan in a succession, using the alphabet to annotate them. Had we wanted to name the plan we might have used "B Plan" (though the specific words "plan B" are so idiomatic that this one isn't going to sound right).

Consider "The A Team" (the name of a team) vs "team A" (simply the first team in a enumerated series).

  • In "HMS Endeavour" the ship has a name, is that also idiomatic?
    – Emmanuel
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 12:37
  • @Emmanuel - Yes, it's the same format.
    – AndyT
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 15:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.