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Typical American construction: "I drew my pistol and stopped the intruder from attacking me."

Typical British construction: "I drew my pistol and stopped the intruder attacking me."

Is the latter usage truly considered completely correct in British English, if the intended meaning is exactly the same as in the first sentence above?

To an American reader, the second construction gives the implication that the attack is already occurring, i.e., it's equivalent to saying "I drew my pistol and stopped the intruder who was (already) attacking on me." Not so apparently to a British reader.

Other similar sentences would include:

  • "I hit the brake and stopped the car rolling forward"
  • "The prime minister stopped the vote going forward"

These would seem strange to an American reader but perhaps not to a British reader. But are they truly considered correct in the British context?

Other similar verbs experience the same difference in construction – for example "prevented", etc.

  • For me (BrE) both are perfectly correct and natural but there is a difference in that the first one can only mean that the intruder was stopped before he could attack, whereas the second one could mean either. I disagree with the answer below which says that both sentences can have both meanings in BrE. I can't comment on AmE but would be interested to know whether other AmE speakers think the second sentence can only be used if the attack had already started. – user96060 Jun 22 at 3:58
  • The one thing I can say for certain is I'm an American native English speaker and always notice the frequent occurrence of the missing "from" when I listen to the BBC world news! – quiet flyer Jun 22 at 11:37
  • I don't think it's correct to say there is a missing from - AFAIC, if you put it in it would change the meaning. – user96060 Jun 23 at 9:13
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I am a native speaker originally from Britain, now living in the US. I believe the British/American distinction is irrelevant. Both sentences are perfectly valid to my ears, each means the same in the UK as in the USA, but they have the capacity to differ subtly in meaning from each other.

And that difference is exactly what you say. The first could be taken to man that the pistol was used to prevent the attack from even starting. The second allows more for the meaning being that the pistol was used to halt an attack that was already underway.

The difference is not completely compelling — you might hear either one used in either way. But in my experience, the extent to which the difference is perceived is unrelated to whether they are being said in the UK or the USA.

  • The one thing I can say for certain is I'm an American native English speaker and always notice the frequent occurrence of the missing "from" when I listen to the BBC world news! – quiet flyer Jun 22 at 13:42

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