This is incorrect. It was just a speech exercise so no one would be counted wrong, but I'm pretty sure that the correct English statement should be "We had set the baby here."
Edit: Now I've had the written French sentence and translated it. Got it wrong. Can any anglophone grammar nazis out there explain this to me? I was under the impression that "Sat" is the past participle of "sit" which is reflexive (never has a direct object). Today I sit. Yesterday I sat. On the other hand, if I set something--needs a direct object, like a book or a baby--then I would say "today I set it", "yesterday I set it", or "I had set it" because "set" is the past participle of "set". (As an aside, both verbs, to sit and to set, are irregular verbs in English, but that need not distract us from my complaint.)
I'm going to type what I think is incorrect just so I can finish the exercise, but I think it's a problem.
They seated the customers at the table. (Present: They seat the...)
She sat at the table. (Present: She sits at the table.)
She had seated herself at the table. (She seats herself at the table.)
He set the food on the table. (He is setting the food on the table.)
When it comes to babies, it's a little grey. Most people set the baby down, or put the baby down, or lay the baby down.
Sit and sat are actually reflexive: I sit [myself] down; I sat [myself] down. I can't sit someone else down; nor could I have sat someone else. I've noticed the same issue in a couple other language courses, where the mods use "sit/sat" rather than "seat/seated" or (in the case of babies), put, set or lay.
I think using "set" in this context is more a dialectical thing. Without having looked into/thought about it much, I'd say that with a direct object (i.e. the baby) you'd use "seated." In other words, "I had sat on the chair," but "I had seated myself on the chair." (Please correct me if I'm wrong!) Then in standard US English: "I set the book on the chair." :)
"I had seated myself" works. According to mirriam-webster on-line version "to seat" is a a transitive very. Myself can be a direct object. Certainly a baby can as well, so "I had seated the baby on the chair" would be okay.
According to that same resource, "to seat" can also work as an intransitive verb. The example given is "the o-ring had not seated correctly in its groove."
I thought you were right, but I was mistaken. From the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary: "[transitive] sit somebody + adv./prep. to put somebody in a sitting position He lifted the child and sat her on the wall. She sat him down in front of the fire with a hot drink."
"We had sat the baby here," is fine, if a little archaic. These days we would more likely say, "We had seated..."
It happens that "set" is the word in the English language with more alternative meanings than any other. The Oxford English Dictionary sets out 464 different definitions of "set," which is a long way ahead of "run," which runs second with only 396.
These days we would more likely say, "We had seated..."
I don't imagine I would, but I do not think it would be incorrect. (I simply put the baby on a seat. Put, like set, requires a direct object such as "the baby") I'm still not convinced about "sat the baby." I just don't see how a reflexive intransitive verb in the English language can have a direct object. Maybe some special exception applies for "to sit" but I am not convinced by any arguments in this thread that such an exception should exist.
Also, I'd have guessed that "to take" is a big one. I can take a pill, take a bus, take a picture, take a seat, take turns, take a bath, take away an important lesson, and take my coffee like Cleveland Brown after Loretta left him for Quagmire.
Sat is accurate here. I would say there is more of a gray area for animals and such, but as for humans, you would sit them down.
I feel like there should be an indication of location after ‘sat’. I would say I am sitting/seated, but rarely just ‘I sit’ or ‘I sat’. Same for set:
- I set it down.
- She set that there.
- We set the box on that table.
Edit now that I am on my laptop:
Set implies more of an inanimate or non-human context, in my view. I use it when the object in question cannot sit for themselves.
Sit implies a certain level of autonomy. I would help a child sit if I were previously holding them in my arms, so to say 'We had sat the baby there' means more of 'We helped the baby to sit themselves down'.
I figure this is what the sentence is going for.
I thank you for the response. In all your examples, "set" had a direct object (it, that, and the box).
Now, a baby can certainly sit itself down (starting at 6 or 7 months). Maybe that's what they meant. And if they're helping the baby to sit, then it's fine. But there's no indication that anyone is helping it, but rather just putting it there--which is what one does with small babies sometimes--in which case it seems that the baby is just as direct and as objective as any other direct object.
Apart from my intuition, on every grammar-nazi website I can find the verb "to sit" (with "sat" as past tense) is the reflexive (intranstive) verb. i.e., it cannot have a direct object. I've even googled "sit the baby" vs "set the baby." I get lots of hits (mostly product instruction manuals in Engrish with horrible misspelling and misuse). Filtering those by adding "grammar" to the search, I get quite a few results with examples. They all say that you must "set" a baby, and that "sit the baby" is incorrect. The problem is that it's just internet resources. Everyone's an editor nowadays.
I'm still researching this. It's either a mistake or the "helping" aspect is what they were going for, but if it's the latter, then they should say, "nous avions aidé le bébé à s'asseoir" or something like that.
I'm been thinking only about the English so far, but now I'm curious about the French. Would I say "mettre le bébé là" to say that the baby is being placed somewhere (the way I'd place a book), since after all, "s'asseoir" seems like a strictly reflexive verb as well.
That's interesting, actually. It could be a matter of semantics, but that's something I have yet to hear or to use. I would never 'set' a child a down, or tell someone too. I would say 'put her down', 'put it down', but if we were to strictly stick with the words here, sit is all that I can fathom.
Prescriptivism likely plays a role in the internet resources as well. Both are technically and logically sound, and I think it comes down to preference, but there's no issue with 'sitting' the baby down as far as I have heard and seen.
Thinking about it further, I rarely use the verb 'seat' as well. I think 'sit' has replaced it almost entirely.
'Please seat yourself down' -> 'Please sit yourself down'
'He is already seated' -> 'He is already sitting down' / 'He's already sat down'
It could be a dialectal variation possibly.
I'd probably say "put" as well. But really put (mettre) is also something that you can do to a book. In fact, it requires a direct object. As I recall, my son could sit up (notice I use the intransitive here) at about 6 months. We were living in a tiny apartment in Manhattan at the time and we were hovering over him and taking pictures of everything. I can see the photo clearly in my mind of him sitting up on a hideous velvet chair that came with the apartment. What I can't remember is what we used to say before that. (I think "put him down" is probably what I'd say as well.)
I do know that "seat" gets used regularly as a transitive verb. ("Seat yourself" signs at restaurants are still common, as well as phrases like "The hostess will seat you" at more expensive places.) We just watched Mr. Bean's Holiday a few days ago and I can't remember what the sign said at the restaurant entrance at the Gare de Lyon train station. I do remember the maitre d'hôtel recommending "le plateau de fruits de mer" and the ensuing gastronomical discontent.
Agreed, put >> before all other words in this instance if we were referring to a young infant. With it, there's no difference between human/non-human objects, which makes me wonder why I have I assign that difference to sit/set.
I do hear it in that context, but do not use it myself. That was an entertaining movie, I saw that one summer when I had nothing better to do, and still remember that scene vividly.
Why is it wrong to say "we had the baby sit here" or "we had the baby sitting here"?
you hit the nail on the head, I think. "to sit" is a reflexive verb. In French and English it's something that one does to oneself. But here we need a transitive verb with the baby as a direct object. In English, that transitive verb is "set."
Obviously the French sentence can't possibly be reflexive and so it won't use "étions." I think that in French it should use mettre or something like that. ("nous avons/avions mis le bébé ici" for example)
See my post above. In English, 'sit' is also a transitive verb meaning 'to put somebody in a seated position'.
I wonder about that as well...
I think it should probably be "Nous avions mis le bébé ici" or something like that. But I don't speak French well enough to know for sure. I do speak English well enough to know that there's a problem with the English version.
What can it possibly mean? I understand the phrase if it were translated into Russian, but in English?! We sit a baby?
It means "we made the baby sit down here", or "we made the baby sit here", but I think the currently suggested translation sounds a little bit clumsy and confusing, although it might be grammatically correct.