I've been reading a multitude of Terry Pratchet books lately, and been exposed to some British terminology that doesn't generally make it over to the states.

The book Soul Music refers to rock music as "Music With Rocks In". That bothered me at first. As an American, I expect there to be a pronoun at the end ("Music with rocks in it").

Is this merely a quirk of Pratchet's writing, or is it common to drop the pronoun at the end of a phrase like this? Might a British purchase order a "burger with cheese in"?


It's not an uncommon construction: it had never occurred to me that it was particularly British, but maybe it is. It is generally colloquial.

The British National Corpus has some examples (there may be many more, but there's no easy thing to search on):

Yeah put on that er you know the little jumper with buttons on not the yellow one but the blue one.

Do they like not like it with nuts in or like that? [I guess there's a pause and correction after the first "like"]

There's also the very common colloquial intensifier "with knobs on":

In consequence, fascism was to emerge in Britain in the 1920s as a supposed imitation of Mussolini's example in Italy, although in reality it was little more than ‘Conservatism with knobs on’, in Arnold Leese's graphic definition of the British fascists.

I've a feeling that "with a hat on" is the same construction, but I guess it could be argued that "on" there is a kind of adverb rather than a preposition.

  • Yes, 'in' and 'on' are both adverbs as well as prepositions. – Barrie England Jan 10 '12 at 15:51
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    Interesting. I didn't think if it that way. It's entirely common to hear "with something on" where I live, but I can't think of anyone who leaves "in" at the end with the preposition implied. It could be that I'm American, or maybe it's just not commonly heard in my particular region. – KChaloux Jan 10 '12 at 16:41
  • “With a hat on” is definitely the same construction: preposition as postnominal adjective. These are often analysed as adverbs, but I find that interpretation unnatural. On and in are the most common, but consider “two men with a woman between”, or “a ship with three crewmen aboard”. It’s definitely more productive outside of the US, though, where we’re rather conservative about language change. – Jon Purdy Jan 10 '12 at 18:50

It's a joke. Both the slightly odd grammar and the literal phrasing (rock music doesn't really refer to stones and pebbles) are supposed to be a bit "off" for humour purposes. I love Terry's books and have them all, but they are so deep in puns I can't imagine what it must be like to read them in my second language. For example Veterinari is supposed to remind you of Medici, only slightly less so, just as a vet is not quite a doctor.

  • I'm American, it's not so much a second language. I could have sworn I heard the construct used somewhere else online, so I got the idea in my head that it may have been a British sort of thing. – KChaloux Jan 10 '12 at 13:46
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    Of course it's a joke, but there's nothing wrong with the grammar. See my reply. – Colin Fine Jan 10 '12 at 14:39
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    The joke isn't the question - an American making the same joke would say "with rocks in it" as the OP said, or some other phrasing like "filled with rocks". – Random832 Jan 10 '12 at 17:20
  • :o I never realised that Vetinari was a play on Medici! – AndyT Feb 6 '17 at 14:48

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