Can anyone tell me what's going on with this phrase:

"The girl sat at the bar..."

My student wants to know why we can say "sat" here. The best I can come up with is that it is a reduced clause from "The girl who is sat at the bar..." but then that brings up the question, where does that construction come from? Normally a reduced clause which uses the V3 form comes from a passive but I don't see what's passive about that.

I am a Uk native speaker from Sheffield, could it just be my dialect?


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Without context, it's difficult to say. As is, the sentence is fine, as a simple statement of fact.

I wouldn't say "is sat at the bar" - "was sitting" is a good phrase for the sake of description.
Wider context:

"The girl sat at the bar who is smoking a cigarette just winked at me" used as an example sentence to teach defining relative clauses.

Clearly "sat at the bar" is correct, but why?


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One of the meanings of 'the verb 'sit' is 'cause to sit'.

We see this in sentences like these.

eg The restaurant manager sat Mary at the table in the corner.

eg Tom sat himself at the bar.

We even see it figuratively in

eg Mary sat her purse on the table.

So, think of your example this way.

The girl came into the tavern.

She sat herself at the bar.

Then I came in.

The girl (who was) sat at the bar winked at me.

That still doesn't explain why we use what looks like a passive construction.

Also, what about the fact that to my mind the full phrase is in fact:

"The girl who is sat at the bar just winked at me" not "was sat". I'm imagining the scenario that I'm sat at a table with my mate and telling him what's just happened. So the girl is still there. And there you go, I'm also perfectly happy with "I'm sat" in that sentence and would be more likely to use it than I'm sitting.


Any ideas? Anyone else?


It is a passive construction.

Here's how I see it.

A much-expanded version would be

eg The girl (who was) sat at the bar (by herself as the agent) winked at me.

or even

eg The girl (who had been ) sat at the bar (by herself as the agent) winked at me.

If you don't look at it in this way, you'd be much more likely to use the the participial adjective,

ie the girl sitting at the bar . . . .

In short, if she was or is sat there, then somebody sat her there. Probably the 'somebody' was herself.

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Ah! Now I've got it. Phew, it just looked so.. wrong as a passive. Great, so now it's just a reduced clause and I know how to explain that.

Thanks very much Clive!

It's very, very rare that I don't agree with Clive, and he's taught me a lot, but I can't make "sat" work here at all!

"The girl seated at the bar," yes. But "the girl sat at the bar"? No.

I would say "The hostess seated me here" not "The hostess sat me here." Is this a regional difference?

The noun phrase "The girl sat at the bar who is smoking a cigaratte" sounds completely wrong to me. If you change "sat" to "seated" I'm all in favor.

I agree that these sound normal:

I sat him down and told him my true feelings.

She sat herself down and finished her homework.

I can't make either of these into to passive and have it sounds natural. He was sat down and given the facts? The girl sat down and finishing her homework looks bored? Those sound really off!
Philip As is, the sentence is fine, as a simple statement of fact.
I cannot find anything extraordinary in it either!Emotion: smileThe girl smiled at the bar. The girl talked at the bar. The girl sat at the bar. The girl stood at the bar. What's the problem?

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