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I have come across the following sentence in New Round-Up 3 Pearson Education Limited 2010:

I swam at the beach last weekend.

I would have understood if it were 'at the seaside', but 'at the beach' strikes me as unusual.

  • 1
    It's not exactly a collocation, but swam at the beach is at least significantly more common than ?swam at the seaside. – snailboat Dec 11 '14 at 11:19
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    I'd guess 'beach' in this example would be more common to a US ear. As far as I can think, there is no direct Am E equivalent of the Br E 'seaside', they appear to use 'beach' for both the general location & the specific stretch of sand. A native Am E speaker could correct me if I'm wrong. – Tetsujin Dec 11 '14 at 11:35
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    @Tetsujin You're correct. Am E would say, "We're going swimming at the pool/at the beach." "Seaside" is not used often, except in real estate terms. Someone might own a seaside mansion, for instance, but we don't really visit "the seaside" ever. It would be understood, but people would look at you funny unless you had a British accent, then they'd find it endearing. – Jason Patterson Dec 11 '14 at 18:31
  • In Philadelphia and many surrounding counties you would hear someone say something like "Last weekend I swam down the shore" (meaning they went to the beach and swam in the water). If you then mentioned "seaside" to them seaside they would probably ask was wrong "wif yoos". – m_a_s Mar 21 '18 at 19:10
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At least to this American, "the seaside" seems too general for the specific action of "I swam". I generally think of "seaside" as referring to a coastal area in general, though perhaps this because (at least Merriam-Websters EL definition of seaside seems to think this) in AmE seaside is most often used as an adjective (e.g. the seaside town, a seaside hotel) rather than referring to the actual coast/strip of sand where one might swim. Additionally, the word seaside to me could be connoting any portion of the coast, whereas one primarily swims at specific sandy places: the beach.

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    My British feeling is the same as your American one: "the seaside" is a general coastal location and I'd be more likely to say "I swam in the sea" than "I swam at the seaside". – David Richerby Dec 11 '14 at 14:44
  • When I was a kid, we went to 'the seaside' where we did anything from play the slot machines, eat too much in the way of doughnuts, candy floss & fish & chips (order unimportant;) to swimming. We wouldn't really need to specify that the swimming took place in water & the rest on land; this all simply took place in the magical world of 'the seaside' (which town was also unimportant.) – Tetsujin Dec 11 '14 at 18:38
  • @DavidRicherby I would also prefer 'swam in the sea' but the thing is that they use 'swam at the beach' which got me puzzled. Having read all of the above, I assume 'I swam at the beach' must be AME – Yukatan Dec 11 '14 at 20:23
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    I don't think swim at the beach versus swim in the sea is a difference between AmE and BrE. They're just two expressions, both common (in AmE at least). – user6951 Dec 11 '14 at 21:33
  • This is clearer! +1 especially for explaining the adjective matter – Maulik V Dec 12 '14 at 4:17
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To an American ear, "at the seaside" sounds odd. "At the beach" is the most natural way of saying it. "The beach" refers to the general location of by the sea.

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    Kindly give us the reason. Simply 'sounding off' does not fulfill it. I'll be happy to learn and upvote it – Maulik V Dec 11 '14 at 12:08
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    @Maulik V: In the US, "seaside" is primarily used of buildings and communities: a seaside cottage, a seaside resort, or adverbially, "we were seaside". But to describe being on the strand where the waves roll in, we say "at the beach" or "at the shore" or, in my neck of the woods, "down the shore". Compare ngram for American English: at the seaside,at the beach – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 11 '14 at 13:36
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    +1 I don't think any reason other than This is what Americans say is necessary. @Maulik V – user6951 Dec 11 '14 at 21:29
  • @CarSmack It is necessary for a non native like me. The solid reason is I want to learn, not simply mug-up! – Maulik V Dec 12 '14 at 4:16
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To try to haul my random thoughts into a semi-coherent ramble - though not necessarily an answer, per se...

To a Br E ear, "the seaside" is the generic term for any coastal town, though particularly reminiscent of the heyday in the 50s & 60s of such as Blackpool, Scarborough, Margate, et al. - featuring pay-through-the-nose attractions such as the fun fair, candy floss, donkey rides, fish & chips, kiss-me-quick hats, poor beer & guest-houses with brushed nylon sheets.

We would stroll along the Prom, listen to brass bands, risk the pier in high winds & rain, perhaps venture out onto the sand far enough to paddle in the freezing cold North Sea.

An idyllic, though strangely overall dissatisfying experience; hence perhaps its decline as people in recent years have had more disposable income - so they can repeat exactly the same miserable experience in sunnier climes… such as Benidorm.

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I am fine with "I swam at the seaside", as an American.

For example, "I swam at the hotel" is perfectly acceptable if I swam at the hotel's pool.

Beach is more common, but I'd prefer the additionally evocations of seaside.

"Seaside" only sounds a bit rarer to me in that it is a slightly less often used near-synonym for beach. Of course, seaside should only be used for bodies of water that can be considered seas. Lake Tahoe has a beach, but not a seaside, for instance.

  • I'm (AmE) curious: Would you say I swam at the lakeside? – user6951 Dec 11 '14 at 21:28
  • I would, especially if I'm not swimming out to the middle of a massive lake (like one of the Great Lakes) or across such a lake. I would if I'm swimming in the general area of the side of the lake. – BoëthiusTreebeard Dec 13 '14 at 3:33

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