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We can see that 15% of the British were over 65 years of age in 1985, with a prediction of a rise to about 23% in 2035. _________.

In the blank, I want to add a sentence which means the figure for England is the same as that of the UK in the two mentioned years. However, I'm not quite sure how to write it properly, especially in terms of tenses. Below are two versions I came up with. Is either of them correct here?

  1. This is also the case for the English in these two years.
  2. This was and will also be the case for the English in these two years.

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  • The graph doesn't mention Britain, but the example paragraph states British. UK isn't the same as Britain. Apr 2 at 8:34
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    Aren't the British what people call the citizens of the UK? If not, how should I call them?
    – Ken Adams
    Apr 2 at 8:39
  • Here's another link on the difference. United Kingdom, on the other hand, is purely a political term: it’s the independent country that encompasses all of Great Britain and the region now called Northern Ireland. Apr 2 at 8:46
  • No sex, please, we're UKians! Great show. Apr 2 at 9:21
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    1) the "rise" might be in the future, but the prediction is not. 2) I would avoid the need for tenses at all, with something like "the same holds true for the English." And 3) the original sentence could be improved; "with a prediction to" is an awkward mix with the directness of the first half. Maybe "... and that proportion is predicted to rise to..." Apr 2 at 18:24

1 Answer 1

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Often, if you are having trouble with the tenses in sentence 2, it's because you made sentence 1 more complicated than it needs to be! I'd say:

We can see that 15% of the UK's population was over 65 years of age in 1985, and that number is predicted to rise to about 23% in 2035. The numbers for England are similar.

Here's what changed:

"The British"

This isn't wrong, but it sounds a little weird. First, we often refer to most races/ethnicities/nationalities as adjectives. In the singular, using the noun could be offensive. (WRONG: "He is a Japanese" would be considered rude or incorrect, but "He is Japanese" would be correct. There's no single rule; "He is a Brit" would be a totally fine way to say someone is British, similar shortenings of other countries are extremely impolite.) In the plural ("the British"), it's generally OK, though you might find some people prefer "British people". For the UK specifically, you might say "15% of Brits".

Second, it's unclear whether "The British" means citizens of the UK, citizens/residents of Great Britain (excluding N.Ireland), people of British descent, etc. "The UK's population" is specific, neutral, and exactly what the survey measured.

"..., with a prediction of a rise to about 23% in 2035":

"with" is an odd preposition here. We can use "with" as a subordinating conjunction with another clause. For example: "We can see that 15% of the British were over 65 years of age in 1985, with that number predicted to increase to 23%..." (Note that this contains a subject, "that number", and a predicate, "predicted to increase..."!)

But "a prediction of a rise" is a noun phrase, not a clause. Using "with" and a noun usually means that the subject is doing something together with or using the with-phrase, or that the object has or is together with. For instance, "I go to the park with her" (we go together). Or "I go to the park with the mermaid statue" (the park has the mermaid statue). Or "I saw Tim with Tom".

In our case, we aren't seeing using the prediction, the fact about 1985 doesn't contain the prediction about 2035, and we didn't really see the facts together.

There are ways to make the sentence work using "with", but you don't have to make life hard for yourself or the reader. Just use a compound sentence with 'and' or 'but'.

(Minor note: using the indefinite "a" twice in a row makes "There is a prediction of a rise" sounds weak and vague.)

The numbers for England are similar.

We can't say "is the case" or "will be the case" if we're including the 2035 prediction, because we aren't sure of it. You'd need to say something awkward like

"This was also (and is predicted to be) the case for the English."

But again, we're making it harder on ourselves. The predictions and statistics are in the present, so we can say this in the present tense.

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  • Thanks a lot for such a detailed answer, Kaia. I have some wondering, though. First, according to Wikipedia, Brits is a colloquial term and it means the same as the British, so I haven't seen why it's better to refer to people from the UK specifically. Second, can we call percentages numbers? For example, is 23% a number or must I call it a percentage? Third, if present tense is acceptable, why don't we just say: "This is also the case for England"?
    – Ken Adams
    Apr 3 at 4:59
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    I think "this is also the case for England" is good too. "Numbers" is potentially colloquial but I don't think it's out of place. If you're concerned, "the percentages" would be fine as well. "15% of Brits" is colloquial, but also something you'd see in newspapers, which care a lot about concise writing. This is just a tone thing, so it's not super important.
    – Kaia
    Apr 3 at 17:09
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    @KenAdams For more on the Brits/The British, I'd compare search for "percent of the british", "percent of brits", and "percent of british people". A lot of the "percent of the British" results are phrased as "percent of the British population". But again, all are usable.
    – Kaia
    Apr 3 at 17:14
  • Thank you! Should I add "in these two years"?
    – Ken Adams
    Apr 4 at 4:35

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