Standing and sitting by Angela Caldin

‘We stand for standing and sitting and we will not stand for stood and sat.’

So says the Guardian style guide and I am writing this post in solidarity and support.

I think I may be in an ever-decreasing minority of those who wince when someone says:

  • I was stood outside the night club waiting for it to open.

This would be all very well if someone had picked the person up and placed them upright outside the night club, but it is not all very well if what they mean is that they were there on their feet of their own free will.

The same jarring sensation happens when someone says:

  • We were sat in the garden when it started to rain.

This would be fine if someone had led them to the garden and insisted that that’s where they should sit, but not fine if they were there in the ordinary course of events.

If you are describing continuous actions in the past then you need standing and sitting.

  • I was standing outside the night club waiting for it to open.
  • We were sitting in the garden when it started to rain.

If you are describing completed actions in the past you need stood and sat.

  • He stood outside the night club for ages, but was turned away by the bouncer.
  • We sat in the garden for half an hour until the rain drove us indoors.

I know that many people will call me a pedant and say I should accept that language evolves and I daresay I am supporting something of a lost cause. But I take the view that when the language used does not make sense, it’s reasonable to object.

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