According to definition 1 in this dictionary for the verb "bar":

to put a bar or a set of bars in front of a door, window, etc., so that people cannot go in or out of it

So, "bar" should be used with "window", "door", etc, but no the entire building structures. But then there is this:

THE European Union has never seen the like of the past eight days in Greece: barred banks, capital controls, the first IMF default by a developed country, the collapse of a multi-billion-euro bail-out, plans for a referendum that may hasten Greece’s ejection from the single currency, and the beggary of the people.

Is "barred banks" an error? Would "banks with barred doors" be better?

  • I think it could be confusing, not because of confusion between putting physical bars on the doors or the whole building, but because of the alternative figurative meaning "a barrier or restriction to an action". That is, one could read this as meaning that the banks had been "barred" from doing something; not physically closed with bars. To make it more clear (in AmE) I might have said shuttered banks which is also figurative but not ambiguous—it means the banks are closed. – Brian Hitchcock Jul 6 '15 at 6:46

This is a rhetorical figure called totum pro parte, where a larger unit represents a smaller part. (The opposite is the wider known pars pro toto.)

A typical use is in sports: "England beats Germany 1:0". Obviously it's not the country, but the national team in some sport that won.

To go back to your bank example: We don't hesitate to say "The bank is open." - knowing fully well that it's the doors of the bank that are open and using "open" also in the sense of "unlocked", not necessarily physically open.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.