'In back of' vs.' behind'

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'In back of' vs.' behind'

Post by pingpong fan » Wed Jun 01, 2005 5:57 pm

Why do Americans say "in back of" rather than <<behind>> and we British don't?
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'In back of' vs.' behind'

Post by dalehileman » Wed Jun 01, 2005 7:13 pm

We are uncultured
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'In back of' vs.' behind'

Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Jun 01, 2005 7:21 pm

Actually they say both. (Even Dale, I'm pretty sure).

'In back of' is generally (but not exclusively) used for describing spatial relationships:

"The paint counter is in back of the store",

whereas 'behind' covers the full spectrum of both concrete and abstract relationships:

"The U.S. administration's neocons are behind the government policy that has led to the disaster of Iraq".

As far as I am able to determine, unlike the word 'behind', 'in back of' means both 'at the rear of' (as in the example I gave above) and 'behind' in its usual sense of 'situated on the far side of an object'.
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'In back of' vs.' behind'

Post by russcable » Wed Jun 01, 2005 8:49 pm

For an actual American point of view...
"The paint counter is in back of the store" means it is outside the store in the back, i.e. behind the store.
"The paint counter is in the back of the store" means it is inside the store towards the back, i.e. at the rear of the store.
It's likewise for "in front of" and "in the front of", e.g. I'm standing in front of the car on the road and the driver's seat is in the front of the car.

"I'm standing behind you" when used spatially usually means directly behind and probably facing the same way like standing in a line (on a queue). "I'm standing in back of you" means you could look over one shoulder or the other and see me somewhere in the general vicinity. If you are sitting on the front row of a theater (theatre), everyone in rows 2 and greater is in back of you, but only one person (or one column of people) is behind you.
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'In back of' vs.' behind'

Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu Jun 02, 2005 3:07 am

My American wife has a different sense of this expression than you do, Russ. She says that:

1) 'In back of' means only 'at the rear of', and that she has never encountered it in any other connection than in descriptions of the spatial relationship of objects or areas to buildings;

2) She would use 'back of' or 'around back of' rather than 'in back of' to mean 'located physically behind'.

3) She would tend to say 'in the back of' rather than 'in back of' to mean 'located in the rear of'.

4) She would tend to use 'behind' rather than any of the other expressions I have mentioned here.

5) My close questioning on this topic has left her completely befuddled about what she actually thinks any more.

I am now curious as to how variable the usage of 'back of'/'in back of' is across the U.S., and would be interested in the perspectives of other native U.S. English speakers. For the record, my wife grew up in the Denver area (i.e. in north central Colorado).
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'In back of' vs.' behind'

Post by russcable » Thu Jun 02, 2005 4:54 am

Erik, to clarify myself I meant to pretty much agree completely with your wife on all points except for #1 as IMO 'in back of' means behind and 'in the back of' means at the rear. To give a closer example to yours - The alley is in back of the store [no 'the' = outside, behind], but the paint counter is in the back of the store [with 'the' = inside, toward the rear].

I don't think I'd ever say that the alley is around back of the store, but if asked where it was I might answer "it's around back" or even very rurally "it's 'round back".
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'In back of' vs.' behind'

Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu Jun 02, 2005 4:29 pm

My wife has solicited opinions on this subject at her Kansas workplace, and writes:

"I've asked my colleagues and they all agree that "in back of" has two meanings, depending on the objects in question, e.g. 'the ball is in back of the fence' means it is behind the fence, while 'the counter is in back of the store' means it is in the rear of the store."
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'In back of' vs.' behind'

Post by kagriffy » Thu Jun 02, 2005 6:12 pm

I have to disagree with Russ on one point. I don't think I'd ever say "I'm in back of you." I think I would use "behind," and I wouldn't necessarily mean directly behind. For example, if I were driving while talking on my cell phone with a friend (who is also driving), I might say "I'm behind you" to mean that you are located somewhere in front of me. (I would probably say that when I could see your car a few car-lengths ahead of me going the same direction but not necessarily in the same lane.) If I were directly behind you (the next car after yours in the same lane), I would say "I'm right behind you." The same would hold true in your theater example: "behind" is anyone in rows 2 and higher, whereas "right behind" would imply in the same column. I still don't think I'd use "in back of" in that situation.

Having said that, I do tend to qualify "behind" in actual practice. I'll use the phrase "right behind" as I noted above, but I'll also say things like "I was behind you to your left at the theater last night" or "I was way behind you at the concert; I could hardly see you." So I guess I use "behind" for most of those situations, but I will modify "behind" to define the spatial relationship more clearly.
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'In back of' vs.' behind'

Post by Yorkie57 » Thu Jun 02, 2005 8:52 pm

Kagriffy

I hope you and your friend use "hands free" cell phone kits whilst driving.
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'In back of' vs.' behind'

Post by JANE DOErell » Fri Jun 03, 2005 1:37 pm

Reading Kagraffy above I had this question, could it be that we qualify "behind" when used spatially because we also use "behind" in expressions of support e.g. "I am behind you on the appropriations issues."?
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'In back of' vs.' behind'

Post by Bobinwales » Fri Jun 03, 2005 1:59 pm

I wouldn't have though so Jane, we use "behind" in exactly the same ways in the UK, but we do not use "in back of" at all.
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'In back of' vs.' behind'

Post by Shelley » Fri Jun 03, 2005 6:57 pm

A show of support can be expressed by "I've got your back", "I'll back you up", "I'm at your back" in addition to the "I'm behind you 100%". I recently heard a 19 year old express thanks in a speech to all those who "had (his) back". It sounded like he saw life as street warfare and himself as a target. Hmmm.
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'In back of' vs.' behind'

Post by spiritus » Wed Jun 08, 2005 2:32 am

All of this sounds ass-backwards to me.
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'In back of' vs.' behind'

Post by Southpawl_Nimrod » Sun Jun 12, 2005 2:31 am

Uh...what Spiritus said seems to be what I'm hearing. I think it's all a matter of individual use. I don't think I really ever use the phrase "in back of"...it's possible it's a regional thing.
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