Word choice

Some people say that "take a decision" is British, but lots of British English speakers deny using the phrase. What's the story?


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In a recent podcast, I talked about some differences between British and American English, and I read a listener bình luận from an American who lived abroad for several years and noticed that British friends said “take a decision” instead of “make a decision,” but then I got a lot of feedback from British people who said they never say or hear “take a decision.” So I did a Twitter poll khổng lồ try lớn get more information. (Audio for that podcast is in the upper right corner of the "dead idioms" page.)
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First, only 17% of British respondents said they use “take a decision.” Six percent appear to lớn use “take” exclusively, & 11% say they use both “take a decision” & “make a decision.” Most Brits—83%—said they would say they “make a decision,” so that explains why a lot of people responded that “take a decision” wasn’t British—it’s definitely a minority of British speakers who say it.Second, a Google Ngram search also shows that although “take a decision” is more common in British English, “make a decision” is by far the more comtháng phrase in both British và American English.

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'Take a decision': American English

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'Take a decision': British English

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'Took a decision' or 'made a decision'

A couple of interesting things came up in the comments though. Multiple people said that although they say they “make decision,” when they’re using the past tense, they say they “took a decision” instead of they “made a decision.” Since my poll only asked about the present tense options, it didn’t get to lớn this point, so the results could be under-representing take-ness versus make-ness.

'Take a decision': foreign language parallels

Further, many people mentioned that in their native sầu language, the parallel phrase to lớn “make a decision” is “take a decision.” I heard from a French speaker (prendre une décision), Castilian speaker (tomar una decisión), Swedish speaker, Italian speaker (prendere una decisione), & a Portuguese speaker (tomar uma decisão). So it may be that people who are native speakers from a language that uses “take” & are speaking English as a second language are more likely to say they “take a decision” since it’s the way they’re used to lớn thinking about the phrase.

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'Take a decison': not new in American English

For what it’s worth, this isn’t a new distinction. In a 1989 “On Language” column in the “Thành Phố New York Times,” William Safire replied khổng lồ a reader who wrote in bemoaning that the Britishism “take a decision” was becoming more comtháng in America, & even baông chồng then, Safire’s response was that “take a decision” was not as new in America as it seemed to the reader. He had a letter from an American colonel from 1951 that used the phrase.

'Take a decision' and 'make a Decision': different meanings?

Finally, some sources speculate that there is a subtle difference between taking a decision và making a decision, in that making a decision refers more to lớn the process and is something that takes time, & taking a decision is the act of deciding & something that happens in an instant.

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Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quichồng và Dirty Tips & the author of seven books on language, including the Thành Phố New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quichồng and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, & the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show & the Today Show. Her popularLinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to lớn communicate better.