I came across the following conversation.

Person 1: Which school are you attending? Person 2: Georgetown

Why do people drop the word "university" here? Is it obvious for native speakers? Won't it be ambiguous when a city has more than one university with a similar name? I see this only in the US. Indians invariably add the word "University". What is standard English usage?

Edit: Is it also common to drop the word "college"?

P.S.: I don't have difficulty when the word "university" is dropped from famous universities like Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, Cambridge, etc.

  • I don't think this problem arises in the UK. We wouldn't ask which 'school' if we knew they were at university. And if you're over 18 you've certainly left school. Sep 5 '20 at 2:54

Such ellipsis is far from limited to educational institutions. A great many such generic words will be deleted when the context is clear, especially in casual communications.

  • After moving to Denver, she stopped flying Delta [Air Lines] and switched to United [Airlines].
  • He hopes to summit [Mount] Everest three years from now.
  • They met when they were both [United States] House [of Representatives] staffers.

Naturally, which words are omitted varies depending on what the audience is familiar with and what distinctions you are trying to draw. If New York City is putting its waste contracts out to bid, with some audiences you could say

  • The City is putting its waste contracts out to bid.

and with others you would say

  • New York is putting its waste contracts out to bid.

but with yet others, you would need to use the full form, to avoid confusion or ambiguity. In your example, Georgetown is taken to refer to Georgetown University, probably the most famous institution by that name, but there is also a Georgetown College, and a student at the latter could not be so free about dropping College. Likewise students at Washington University, Cornell College, Miami University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, or either of Boston College and Boston University, among many others.


In your example, dropping "University" from the answer is an example of answer ellipsis, which is well documented, grammatically correct and widely used in spoken English. It is not specific to the word 'University"- you can do the same with "College", as in the example below.

Which school are you attending?
[I am attending] Eton [College].

Note that, in the UK, a school is a place of secondary education. A small number of fee-paying schools (Eton College is one of them) refer to themselves as colleges. Schools that are exclusively for pupils in their final two years of secondary education are called sixth form colleges.

In the UK, the term University (or "Uni" in colloquial English) is used for most places of tertiary education, though the older universities (Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, London) are divided into a number of colleges.

A British University student would be quite offended if you asked what school they were attending, as it would imply that they don't look old enough for tertiary education.


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