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While preparing for the CPE exam I came across the following sentence transformation task:

The children agreed they would each tidy the
playroom on alternate days.

turns

The children ________________________ the playroom.

My answer was:

The children agreed to take turns tidying the playroom.

The key states:

The children agreed to take it in turns to tidy the playroom.

Is my answer incorrect? If yes, then why?

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – tchrist
    Aug 2, 2019 at 18:31

1 Answer 1

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Certainly, in British English you can take it in turns to do something, and you can take turns doing something too.

Both the stated answer and the Original Poster's answer are perfectly grammatical in British English. In fact, the British National Corpus yields more hits for take turns than take it in turns, with 52 hits for the former and 31 hits for the latter (nothing much hinges on this). The BNC contains 100 million words.

However, the Corpus of American English, which contains about 520 million words, has 959 hits for take turns and zero hits for take it in turns.

To take it in turns, therefore, seems to be a very British phenomenon.

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  • I personally think that even a British English speaker would tend to say: They took turns cleaning the floor. And not: They took it in turns to clean the floor. However, without the clean the floor both both AmE and BrE are the same: They took it in turns. However, I would agree with: They found it embarrassing to have to repeat their opinion several times.
    – Lambie
    Aug 1, 2019 at 20:06
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    @Lambie Well, I think I would say the it version but maybe write the take turns version. Colin also finds the it version completely natural. Aug 1, 2019 at 20:23
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    Using it as Araucaria quotes seems fine to me (Brit), and indeed, more idiomatic.
    – Andrew Leach
    Aug 1, 2019 at 20:44
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    @Lambie, as an American I will firmly state that we never say "take it in turns" as a part of our own dialect. When we need a phrase like this we say "take turns doing x". When we occasionally encounter "take it in turns", it is in a non-American source, and when we even more rarely use it, it is in imitation of other dialects (more specifically, Brits).
    – wordsworth
    Aug 1, 2019 at 20:57
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    @Lambie OK, I think you're referring to two infinitives in "The children agreed to take it in turns to tidy the playroom.". This is not how I would say it (AmE), but sounds fine to me, and whether it sounds fine to me (or you), it sounds fine to Araucaria and others, so it is grammatical for them. I don't see how you can say it's bad for them. You can totally say it doesn't work for you, but you can't say it doesn't work for them.
    – Mitch
    Aug 5, 2019 at 16:50

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