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One of my favorite authors uses past tenses in the following manner:

  • Other than Camden and Luke’s cousin Alex, who were stood outside the main doors talking, no one was in sight.

    An American would write "... were standing..."

  • Stood in front of him, Tate folded his arms.

    An American would say, "Standing in front..."

  • Khloé found herself stood in—ah, hell—a basement.

    An American would use, "... standing in..."

Is this correct British grammar? Why the difference between regions?

I read sentences like these and my American brain stumbles and hiccups.

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  • 1
    You don't fancy telling us who the author is? This question is primarily about "am sat" but also mentions "were stood".
    – Stuart F
    Jan 19 at 18:27
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    Yes, the Brits use "were stood" for "were standing" and "were sat" for "were sitting". It is fine and it is standard in British English, I believe. Funny though for an AmE speaker. I am very surprised by what people say here because I see/hear these forms in series and movies all the time. Am I the only one watching British stuff and listening to the speakers?
    – Lambie
    Jan 19 at 18:44
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    That doesn't read like conventional UK English. I suspect that stood is used in the sense of "place." A teacher stood the student in the hallway when he wouldn't stop talking. The "were" is to make it passive.
    – Zan700
    Jan 19 at 18:44
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    It's misleading to present this as AmE and BrE "alternatives". The PP form is extremely informal / dialectal in BrE. But I also have the impression that Brits today are in general less concerned about "correct" grammar than Americans. It's probably relevant that British TV features ever more presenters with strong accents, and there been a huge increase in glottal stops from people telling us the news and weather, in recent years. They'd never have been hired at all a few decades ago, but nowadays, "ordinary people" are much sought after for such jobs. Jan 19 at 18:49
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    @KateBunting not a "stood joke", even now? Jan 19 at 18:57

2 Answers 2

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It's misleading to present this as AmE and BrE "alternatives". The PP form is extremely informal / dialectal in 'BrE'. But I also have the impression that Brits today are in general less concerned about "correct" grammar than Americans. It's probably relevant that British TV features ever more presenters with strong accents, and there [has] been a huge increase in glottal stops from people telling us the news and weather, in recent years. They'd never have been hired at all a few decades ago, but nowadays, "ordinary people" are much sought after for such jobs.

                                                                                                      –   FumbleFingers [minor adjustments]

As for English considered standard in the UK, the Guardian Style Guide has:

We stand for 'standing' and 'sitting' [in such usages] but we will not stand for 'stood' and 'sat'.

So 'Yes, the Brits use "were stood" for "were standing" and "were sat" for "were sitting" ' is a gross overgeneralisation, and 'It is fine and it is standard in British English' just plain wrong.

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  • bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/grammar/… Teachers correct it but people say it. It is heard all the time on British series and in British movies. It is not an overgeneralization. It's the vox populi. The Guardian has a style guide but the BBC blog post explains its usage. And does not condemn it. Do you think I have bad hearing?
    – Lambie
    Jan 19 at 20:01
  • And this long article: random-idea-english.blogspot.com/2013/11/… "But I have to say that personally I find them rather attractive and, like a lot of idiomatic English, an enrichment of the language. The main thing is that when you hear a native speaker say it, don't think they are making an error or are grammatically ignorant: this is a perfectly natural British English expression, albeit one that is not accepted in all quarters."
    – Lambie
    Jan 19 at 20:12
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    ['In an Oct. 3, 2012, post on the Oxford Dictionaries blog, the lexicographer Catherine Soames notes the increasing nonstandard use of the past participles “sat” and “stood” for the present participles “sitting” and “standing” in British English.' ... Soames, editor or co-editor of several Oxford dictionaries, says [this usage] in continuous, or progressive, tenses is “regarded as non-standard by usage guides.” '](grammarphobia.com/blog/2017/12/…). Jan 19 at 23:27
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    She also says: “The answer’s not clear,” Soames says, “but my research shows that this usage (which used to be restricted to some regional British dialects) is becoming more widespread in British English, and is even appearing in edited writing such as newspapers and magazines.”
    – Lambie
    Jan 20 at 14:43
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    @Lambie It is still termed 'nonstandard' in the article. Jan 20 at 22:35
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I would understand "he was stood" to indicate there was some decision or compulsion about where he was standing.

"They were stood outside" is a passive voice version of "Somebody or something stood them outside". To "stand somebody" indicates a degree of compulsion, in the same way as to "place somebody" does. Somebody could stand themselves in a place; in that case it would be decision rather than compulsion. "I stood myself in the classroom corner, where I could see all the students"

Coming out of this understanding I would understand the three example sentences to be saying more than if they had used "were standing". The first suggests that Camden and Alex had deliberately selected their position (they had stood themselves there). The other two suggest to me that some other agent, fate, or a series of events, had placed Tate and Khloe in their locations.

Understood in this way the sentences are not ungrammatical, and are not necessarily erroneous.

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