Simple question??

Would be very grateful to know is the statement "an error on our behalf" gramatically correct?.

It has been suggested that the correct wording would be "an error on our part" or simply "our error".

Please could you let me know? and if poss why its correct/incorrect??
1 2
Hello Guest

If I say "it's an error on our part", I mean "it's our error".

If I say "it's an error on our behalf", I mean "someone else
has made an error while representing us".

The second construction should in theory be very rarely heard,
but in fact native speakers often confuse the two (and their

Thank you that makes sense but raises another question in my mind.

Which would I use if I am explaining an error made by colleague within the company I work for? They are in a sense representing the company but are also a part of it?

I find this very confusing!

Once again, thank you for your help
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Hello Guest

You would say 'it was an error on our part', i.e. 'that was our error'.

'It was an error on our behalf', if taken literally, would mean 'someone
else [i.e. a 3rd party who is not part of 'us'] has made an error
while representing us'. Or 'an error was made by someone who
was acting on our behalf'.

But in practice, this phrase would never be used, except by mistake for
'it was an error on our part'.

(On reflection, I'm not sure that the verb 'to be' on its own can precede a
'behalf' construction. It seems to require a 'doing' verb:

'The lawyer spoke on behalf of his client.'
'The solicitor acted on my behalf.'
'The claim was made on behalf of all members.')

"on our behalf" means "acting for us". The normal way of thinking of it is that whatever is done "on our behalf" is done for our benefit. What is done would have to be an act done purposely with the intent of representing or helping someone else.

I can't imagine how it would make sense for someone to make an error for us, i.e., acting for us.

The following are all anomalous:

Phillip made a fool of himself on my behalf.
Georgia slipped on a banana peel on our behalf.
Arnold and Joan sent the wrong products to the customer on the manager's behalf.
While jogging, Christine ran into a telephone pole and hurt herself on my behalf.
Matt told everyone the secret on behalf of Jane.

Emotion: smile
It would indeed have to be a strange and perhaps deliberately
anomalous situation:

"Arnold and Joan sent the 'wrong products' to the customer on the
manager's behalf. We never heard from the customer again,
thank God."

"Phillip made a fool of himself on my behalf" [to distract the other guests' attention]

"Matt told everyone the 'secret' on behalf of Jane."

"While completing my girlfriend's tax return, I made a mistake on her behalf."

Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
'On/in behalf of' implies 'done for someone'. 'On the part of' implies 'done by someone'.

'On the part of' requires one party & a noun or noun-phrase:

'It was [a something] on X's part.'

'On behalf of' requires two parties & a verb or verb-phrase:

'X [did something] on Y's behalf.'


'That was a gross exaggeration on the ambassador's part.'
'The ambassador made a grossly exaggerated statement on the prime minister's behalf.'

In the phrase 'on behalf of', we add 'own' where party X is the same as party Y:

'The ambassador made a grossly exaggerated statement on his own behalf.'

The problem with the original sentence ('it was an error on our behalf') is that there is only one party ('us'). It is only feasible as an ellipsis:

'It was an error [made by someone acting] on our behalf.'

This is not the meaning Guest wishes to convey, however, since the errant colleague is already included in 'our'. Guest requires:

'It was an error on our part.'
Well, Mr. P, you are certainly very clever at contextualizing the example sentences!!!
I'm still smiling! Thanks. Emotion: smile
Okay, how about some kind of plural construction. I wrote the following in an e-mail recently, but I wasn't sure of its grammatical correctness:

"Thanks again for your wonderful efforts on all of our behalf."

This does have someone else ("you") acting for a third party's ("our") benefit, but the third party is actually a group. Since it sounds very awkward, "on all of our behalfs (or halves???)" is not likely to be correct. Maybe I should have written "on behalf of all of us." Comments?

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