"Wolves agree deal to sign..." - Proper Grammar?

Current headling on BBC Sport: “Wolves agree deal to sign Iceland striker Bjorn Sigurdarson”. (Wolves is a soccer team, btw).

As this grates horrible on my American ears, I thought perhaps it was just an issue with the headline. However, in the lede paragraph: "The 21-year-old Iceland international, a half-brother of ex-Wolves midfielder Joey Gudjonsson, is yet to agree personal terms on a four-year deal. "

I’m assuming this is a Britishism, but how can you omit the second “to” in the highlighted phrase? That is, shouldn’t it be “is yet to agree to personal terms”?

Doing a Google search shows very many examples of the form “agree terms” “agree deal” without the “to” or “with” following “agree”, but I can’t find a discussion of this particular form.

Agree = greenlight, in this sense. Just a different usage.

It’s because the BBC is engaged in a decades-long struggle to destroy the English language.

Ah, OK, I think I found it:

  1. Chiefly British . to consent to or concur with: We agree the stipulations. I must agree your plans.

Carry on then.

Still sound bloody odd, though, especially when such a simple interpolation “fixes” it.

From the OED:

  1. To arrange, concert, or settle (a thing in which various interests are concerned).

1523 Ld. Berners tr. J. Froissart Cronycles I. 86 Whan that this sayde trewse was agreed.

1658–9 Neville in T. Burton Diary (1828) III. 194 If you leave it without agreeing the security.

1679 Bp. G. Burnet Hist. Reformation I. 586 The king sent Sir Ralph Sadler to him, to agree the marriage.

a1715 Bp. G. Burnet Hist. Own Time (1724) I. 562 He had agreed a match for him with his brother the Duke of Zell for his daughter.

1715 Pope tr. Homer Iliad I. iv. 186 Did I for this agree The solemn Truce?

1928 Britain’s Industr. Future (Liberal Industr. Inq.) 140 These councils should have the power to agree factory rules.

1959 Bookseller 13 June 1982/1 The Russians have agreed a wide list of categories.

1963 Listener 23 May 877/3 Miss Laski’s letter…shows once more the difficulty of agreeing a definition of mysticism.

From reading the BBC News website, I recognize it as a British quirk of the language. Besides sounding lazy and sloppy, it strikes me as just plain wrong because it leads to “They agreed disagree”.

Ranks up there with another Britishism, “the committee are meeting”, which I’m sorry to see is starting to appear on this side of the pond with negative consequences for our kids. Too rarely is the question asked, “Is our children learning to talk good?”

I don’t think so. Suppose that instead of “personal terms” we use the phrase “a salary”

“he is yet to agree a salary”
“he is yet to agree to a salary”

See the difference between those? The first means that he WILL be paid a salary, but the amount has not yet been agreed. The second would mean that he has not yet agreed to take a salary at all.

If there’s a word missing at all, it’s ‘on’ as in “he is yet to agree on personal terms”

That sounds very wrong to me. I would never say that a single party agrees “on” something. I would say they agree “to” something. When multiple parties are involved in a negotiation and reach a mutual understanding, I would then say they agree “on” something.

For example:
*Management and the union agreed on the terms of a new contract.
The union agreed to the terms of the contract that management presented to them.

And, slightly contradicting what I said earlier, I would say:
Management and the union agreed to the terms of the contract that was proposed by the mediator.
As opposed to:
Management and the union agreed on the terms of a new contract after considering the mediator’s suggestions.

Not true at all. Agree to disagree is n idiom in its own right - British people do not say “agree disagree.”

Groups and coorporations can often, in British English, be treated as a singular noun, when they’re acting like a single entity. People in American do it too - there’s one in this very thread: Friedo said “the BBC is…” and you didn’t pick up on that. Odds are you won’t have noticed if the article had been about Everton or Liverpool or some other team that doesn’t have an s on the end. Your brain just parsed Wolves as the plural of Wolf because that’s what you’re more used to seeing.

Before I opened the thread I thought it would be about whether Wolves should be treated as a singular.

I didn’t think they’d say that, but using “agree” without adding the preposition would logically lead to it, wouldn’t it? Not that the English language holds hard and fast to its rules.

You got my take on that backwards. I agree [with;)] “the BBC is…” because BBC is a singular noun. What I hear from Britons is “The BBC are…” as if it’s plural. I’ve been told that either usage is considered officially correct in Britain when a collective noun is concerned, but it sounds odd (okay, it sounds wrong!).

As I understand it (as a Briton), ‘are’ is typically used for a non-monolithic corporate entity - that is, where the individual members are the conspicuous, everyday part - football teams are.

More anonymous, less-divisible entities, the entity as a whole is.

The BBC (an entity) is planning a new documentary about worms
Chelsea (a group of people) are playing Newcastle on 25th August

No it doesn’t. “Disagree” here is a verb in its infinitive form, so it needs the “to”. The “to” attaches to “disagree”, not “agree”. Compare “We expect to disagree.” You wouldn’t say “We expect disagree”. Similarly, “We expect favourable terms,” not “We expect to favourable terms.”

“Terms” is a noun, so why would you insert “to”?
To my eye, “they have yet to agree to personal terms” looks totally wrong. As Peter Morris says, that makes it sound as if they have yet to agree whether or not there will be any personal terms, which isn’t the intended meaning. The distinction is a subtle one, but “agree to” means to accept a yes/no decision, while “agree on”, or just “agree”, carries the meaning of hashing out the details.
As for the team singular/plural thing, every time I read in the Euro 2012 that “England looks to be doing well”, for instance, it grates because it sounds as if the person is talking about the country, not the team. I know that’s how Americans do it, but it’s wrong, dammit! :wink:

I agree that “to disagree” is the infinitive, but you still need the “to” when talking about nouns. “to the terms” is an adverbial prepositional phrase. The verb “Agree” is intransitive, so it can’t take a direct object such as a simple “terms”. The verb “expect”, on the other hand, is transitive. That’s why you can say “I expect results” but not “I agree results”.

Your ‘chiefly British’ usage is, indeed, an affront to the American language.


In American English it is always “agree TO” (or with, etc.).

My (admittedly British) dictionary says “agree” can be transitive or intransitive. See specifically the usage notes for senses 2 and 3 (my underlining):

There are just as many apparent quirks in American English, especially to the ears of someone who is used to British English.

One that is almost the direct equivalent of your example is the American use of the word “write,” when talking about correspondence. In America, you write someone; in Britain and Australia, you write to someone. The American locution always sounds stupid to me.

In a somewhat different vein, one that drives me crazy is the American usage of the word “couple.” Americans often say, “I’ve got a couple questions about this,” while for Brits, Aussies, etc. it’s “a couple of questions.”

Same here, and yet we “email someone” or “phone someone” quite happily (we Brits don’t email to or telephone to people, as logic might suggest based on “write to”).

Don’t expect consistency, especially where English is concerned.

That strikes me as a rather arbitrary distinction for no particular reason. It could just as easily be said that the BBC is made up of many individuals and that the Chelsea football club is a singular entity. And it seems to imply that you’d say “The class are studying physics today”.

But it’s your language. I guess you can do whatever you want with it. :slight_smile:

I wouldn’t call it a distinction, because in British English you can use both the singular and plural. It would not sound wrong to say “Chelsea is a Premier League football club”, for example.
To me, this extra possibility reflects the way that we do sometimes think of these types of nouns as single entities, and sometimes think of them as collections of individuals. Depending on how we are thinking about them, the singular or the plural may be more appropriate.