Transitive Twist on “Agree”
A DWT reader wonders about the following uses of the verb agree in a British publication:
In a November white paper laying out its vision for independence, Scotland said it would expect to agree a mechanism with London, whereby it would gradually refinance its share of the UK’s debt as gilts matured.
Under the proposed legislation, the US would place even tougher international restrictions on Iranian oil exports if it fails to agree a final nuclear deal over the next six months.
Says the reader,
In both, “agree” is used without a preposition following it. To my Canadian ears, this sounds odd. Is this a chiefly British use or did I simply miss that grammar class? When must one use a preposition with agree and when is it best avoided?
Until this reader pointed it out, I’d never noticed this usage. A cursory web search leads me to believe that it is an aberration of British English and may be creeping into American usage by way of journalists who cover European news for the international market.
I found this naked agree in respected British publications:
Blackberry and Foxconn agree a five-year deal –BBC News Business
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger could agree a new three-year contract as early as this week as Stan Kroenke jets in to London –The Independent
Belfast pub bosses quit over a failure to agree lease –Belfast Telegraph
I found the usage on a British banking site:
Agreeing a formal overdraft is fee free and keeping within your limit is a cost-effective way to manage your account.
Agree your overdraft limit in advance.
It occurs in a headline about U.S. affairs at an international news site:
Democrat and Republican negotiators agree a new spending bill to put before Congress –Euronews
And it occurs at Forbes.com in a headline over an article written by a European correspondent:
Time For ECB To Agree A New Plan For Cyprus
It has even found its way into the OED in a quotation from 2007:
This does not stop retrials being ordered where the jury has failed to agree a verdict. –C. Elliott & F. Quinn Eng. Legal Syst. (ed. 8) iv. xxiv. 549.
I find this usage not only odd, but extremely disagreeable. For me, agree is an intransitive verb. It does not take an object. A jury agrees on a verdict. Friends agree with each other. Countries agree to a plan.
So far, the transitive usage that has countries “agree plans” and bank customers “agree overdraft limits” is distinctly British usage. May it remain so.
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