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Choose the word or phrase that best completes each sentence.

The factory is ............ in a suburb of Manchester.

a) placed   b) situated   c) built   d) surrounded

my answer: built

the right one: situated

I thought the factory is a physical structure, which was built, so the answer must be built because of the physical closeness (factor).

My question: How will I know the difference next time?


built: (past simple and past participle of build) to make something by putting bricks or other materials together, Cambridge Dictionary.

situated: in a particular position, Cambridge Dictionary.

While both seem correct, there must be logical precedence in meaning; I still have the question mark.

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    Is this a multiple choice question, or could you use any word?
    – James K
    Aug 15, 2023 at 2:11
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    It is a multiple choice question indeed: a) placed b) situated c) built d) surrounded
    – Han
    Aug 15, 2023 at 2:53
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    This is actually pretty subtle. The only answer that is outright wrong is "surrounded", because "surrounded in" is non-idiomatic (we say "surrounded by", instead). Any of the other three could work, but "situated" is the most natural of them. Aug 15, 2023 at 19:43
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    "The factory is in a suburb of Manchester" is probably best, but that wasn't given as a choice on the test. Aug 15, 2023 at 19:59
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    WIthout context, while situated is the most likely, there are plausible situations for each of the options to describe them best. Aug 15, 2023 at 22:21

4 Answers 4

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"Situated" may be better than "Built", since it was built in the past, so a past tense would be better "The factory was built...." The adjective "situated" could be used with the present tense to speak of the current location.

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    Note also that "was built in a suburb" may not even be factually correct, if the suburb developed after the factory was built. Then "was built" becomes more complicated to use, e.g. "The factory was built in what today is a suburb of Manchester"
    – Ben Voigt
    Aug 16, 2023 at 15:49
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Situated indicates where something is.

Built can do that also, but it wants to be in the past tense:

The factory was built in a suburb of Manchester.

When we use the build participle in the present tense with is, that's used for indicating how, not where.

The factory was built in a suburb of Manchester. It is built mostly out of bricks. It is built in a traditional style.

Something was built, is now situated at that site where it was built, and continues to be built of a certain material or in a certain way.

There is a way in which is built can refer to the location, like in a certain style of narration that stays the present tense. Like perhaps:

The year is 1957. A new factory is built in a suburb in Manchester.

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    I mostly agree with this, but I suspect I would personally use the past tense even for the "how" cases; "It was built mostly out of bricks. It was built in a traditional style." remains accurate/grammatical, and aside from realtor or artist language (read: Trying to sound pretentious and/or flowery), I'd usually expect to hear the past tense phrasing from the average person. Aug 16, 2023 at 13:27
  • @ShadowRanger One situation in which you couldn't switch to the past tense would be when you're describing how an abstract class of houses is being built, if it's a contemporary class (instances of that class are being built). "The modern high rise {is / was?} built of concrete and steel." We can have was there, but then we are in some post-apocalyptic world, describing how something was before civilization crumbled.
    – Kaz
    Aug 16, 2023 at 15:15
  • Agreed, if you're describing the abstract case for something in the present day, that's a case where the past tense would be weird. But only for the abstract case, since you'd use "is being built" for concrete examples actually being built right now. Aug 16, 2023 at 15:18
  • @ShadowRanger In those examples "is built..." sounds quite natural to me, by analogy with "is made...". Indeed, I think there is a distinction between "is built in a traditional style" (the style is now traditional) and "was built ..." (the style was traditional at time of building). Aug 17, 2023 at 6:44
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As others have said, "built" is more appropriate for past-tense phrases. It would be unusual to describe the location of something by saying "It is built in" a place.

This is really just a matter of common phrasing. Of course the factory was "built", but "is situated" is a common phrase when describing something's location. Actually, "situated" is somewhat of a formal, textbook-sounding phrase (to an American's ears; perhaps less so in the UK). The most common phrasing in the US would probably be "is located in..." but that wasn't a choice. However, you can see how "situated in" is very close in meaning to "located in".

However, read the sentence without the blank -- that is actually the clearest phrasing of all, as one person commented:

"The factory is in a suburb of Manchester."

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Because built is not used as a predicative adjective in English.

It can be used as an attributive adjective ( though it's not very common except in the fixed phrase "the built environment"). But if it is used predicatively, it is almost always verbal not adjectival, so it relates to the process of building, not just to the thing which has been built.

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    Built is perfectly normal as a predicative adjective. The house is built on an old cemetery, their relationship is built on trust, etc. Those are adjectival more than verbal. But even if built weren't used predicatively, there's nothing in the sentence that says the word to insert can't be verbal. Aug 15, 2023 at 22:59

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