In this clip of an American talk show, the host says at 18 seconds into the video:

At the airport in Los Angeles, there was chaos and confusion. Nobody could get in or out before the protests start -- that was before.

In the second sentence, she talks about what happened in the past. Then, shouldn't it be "started" instead?

  • I think what she says is before the protest start -- that is, before the start of the protest. It's a singular protest, just the one in LA. Feb 7, 2017 at 2:38
  • @StoneyB Even if it's singular "protest", somehow I still think "start" sounds more like a verb than a noun.
    – JK2
    Feb 7, 2017 at 2:44
  • the protest start is American-type journalese. It is meant as a noun.
    – Lambie
    Mar 20, 2021 at 16:26
  • 1
    @Lambie If "the protest start" is a noun phrase used by journalists, could you find me some examples? I can't seem to find any.
    – JK2
    Mar 21, 2021 at 3:03
  • I just saw it and she says: before the protest's start. It is a possessive. So the transcription you are using is inaccurate and that grammar is standard.
    – Lambie
    Mar 21, 2021 at 15:11

2 Answers 2


I agree that Ellen (the host) was most likely using the phrase "protest start" as a noun meaning "the beginning of the protest". However, if she simply misspoke, then you are correct about the tense. Speaking proper English, the host would have said "started" because the sentence is in the past tense, and switching to the present tense creates verb tense confusion.


Ellen clearly says:

[...] before the protest's start: A possessive.

She starts by referring to protests at airports around the country. Then, she refers to the specific protest at the LA airport.

So, protest's start makes sense in context and that's how I hear it.

Transcripts are known to be full of mistakes, especially machine transcription. Editors are not exactly reading this stuff for mistakes.

  • Well, if you Google "At the airport in Los Angeles, there was chaos and confusion. Nobody could get in or out before the", you'll see several transcripts, all of which say "the protests start". For example: elle.com/culture/movies-tv/news/a42563/…
    – JK2
    Mar 21, 2021 at 15:53
  • @JK2 Transcripts are often done by machine or by human's who missed the point. The point is that grammatically it makes sense. Unless she was using the historical present, another possibility. Actually, one can hear a difference when a difference is made.
    – Lambie
    Mar 21, 2021 at 16:10
  • Are you sure you can hear the difference in this particular case?? It's not just one transcript. All of them.
    – JK2
    Mar 21, 2021 at 16:28
  • BTW, could you show me some examples of "the protest start", which everybody's claiming is a set phrase used by journalists? I couldn't find any.
    – JK2
    Mar 21, 2021 at 16:30
  • She is discussing protests in general at airports across the country. THEN, she refers specifically to the one at the LA airport. So, I conclude that yes, she is saying "before the protest's start" in this case. As I said, transcripts are known to be off. So that proves nothing.
    – Lambie
    Mar 21, 2021 at 16:32

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