Is the phrase seat well and hold steadily grammatically correct? If it is, why does it use seat instead of sit?

PS:the instruction will be used on the bus.

  • Supposition contrary to fact? Can you document this proverb? – MetaEd Jan 17 '12 at 2:04
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    @MetaEd: Since OP is looking for wording to display to bus passengers, he obviously doesn't mean "proverb". He means "standard phrasing" for such a context. Which I think is way too localised. – FumbleFingers Jan 17 '12 at 2:39
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    If a native English speaker saw a sign on a bus that read "seat well and hold steadily", they would laugh and know the sign was not written by a native speaker. Seating is just not something you do "well", nor is holding something you do "steadily". – David Schwartz Jan 17 '12 at 11:20

No, the saying is not formed according to normal grammar. It should be

Sit well and hold steadily.

Seat can be a verb, but it is always transitive except in a few jargony cases. Your example sounds like it's suffered a bad case of translation software syndrome. A more natural-sounding (even idiomatic) version would be:

Sit tight and hold steady.

Google confirms this with a respectable 5 separate occurrences.

  • steady is adj, it will decorate hold。 why not use adv? thank you – enjoylife Jan 17 '12 at 1:44
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    Good catch, but steady can be an adverb. – Daniel Jan 17 '12 at 1:45

No it isn't, and I can't think of any way it can be rescued. Firstly, 'Seat' as opposed to 'sit' refers to placing something in a position where it will be stable. The fitters on your bus might seat the benches well, but passengers would probably object to being glued down. 'Be seated' can refer to people, but only for the act of sitting down.

Secondly, neither sitting nor sitting down can be done well or badly; they are simple actions, like blinking, which require no skill.

Thirdly, 'hold steadily'is almost certainly not what you mean. Steadily rather than steady would mean 'with an even pressure' (hat-tip to FumbleFingers for identifying the problem), and hold requires an object; if you mean 'hold something stable so you don't get thrown about', the usual phrase is hold on.

A sign saying "Remain seated and hold on tightly" would be good English (tight is more idiomatic but tightly is more formal and suitable for a sign); but do you really want to put it up? If the bus is not jolting around, all it will do is downhearten or discourage the passengers, and if it is, they probably won't need instructions to hold on.


Yes - it's not a "saying" but it's a perfectly a well-formed instruction.

To seat well in the context of, say, assembling something from a kit of parts would mean to make sure the relevant interlocking parts of two component are properly fitted together (MW sense:3).

In such a context, if the parts are to be permanently attached using glue, hold steadily would be a normal thing to do while waiting for the glue to set (and a normal way of expressing this).

In most contexts, hold steady would be more common, but personally I prefer steadily here. For reasons I can't quite put my finger on, it seems more suited to a context where the steady holding only needs to last for a relatively short period (until the glue sets enough to let go). I'd be glad to hear from anyone who has an opinion on this preference.

  • the proverb will be used on the bus. – enjoylife Jan 17 '12 at 2:18
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    @enjoylife: Crikey! You're not planning to fit out buses to operate in Thailand, are you? In the UK, the standard wording is "Please remain seated while the vehicle is in motion". I'm sure any mention of "holding on steadily" would have half the passengers jumping off the bus and looking for a more credible company to travel with! – FumbleFingers Jan 17 '12 at 2:35
  • ...anyway, in light of that information I'm afraid I have to vote to close. – FumbleFingers Jan 17 '12 at 2:37
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    IMHO, steadily emphasizes that it is an adverb, and so refers to the holding. Steady might refer to the object being held. I can't really think of a situation where the two are opposed, but possibly if you tried to hold your girlfriend steady on the bus, you might not hold her steadily. – Tim Lymington Jan 17 '12 at 12:47
  • @TimLymington: ty. OP's actual request looks like a busted flush, but I really was interested in this particular point arising [from my misinterpretation]. One of the things I love about ELU is when someone else clarifies the "subconscious reasoning" or whatever it is that causes us to be relatively consistent in our choice of words. I suppose it really is just "idiom" quite often (in the sense of that's what you hear, so that's what you repeat), but doubtless there is often a genuine rationale behind the scenes causing one version to gain traction over others. – FumbleFingers Jan 17 '12 at 13:34

Seat as a verb intransitive is used in the sense of ' to occupy a seat' in the public transport field.

Therefore, it is more of a domain specific usage of the word and is appropriate in context.

  • Not in my experience: do you have some authority? – Tim Lymington Jan 17 '12 at 13:09
  • I have mentioned this from observed personal experience. Not in the US, though. – Kris Jan 17 '12 at 13:11

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