What Does It Mean To “Table Something”? (And Is It Only British?)

Sometimes, we come across a phrase that we use differently in American and British English. “Table something” is an example of that to an extreme, where it means something vastly different in both cases. This article will explain what it means.

What Does It Mean To “Table Something”?

“Table something” means to put something forward for discussion. It’s used commonly in formal settings to discuss future ideas, though it’s only used this way in British English. In American English, “table something” means to delay the discussion of a subject.

What Does It Mean To "Table Something"?

The definition of “table,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “to suggest something for discussion.” This is what we can see on the page based on the meaning in British English.

However, the definition of “table,” according to the same page on The Cambridge Dictionary, is “to delay discussion of a subject” in US English.

The two languages use the verb in completely opposite manners, which is incredibly rare to happen.

How To Use The Verb “Table” In A Sentence

To help you understand the two meanings of “table,” we want to include some examples. We’ll separate it into two parts and have the US and the UK variations of the meaning.

British English

  1. I’d like to table a proposal with you later if that’s okay.
  2. We should table a discussion as soon as we’re able to!
  3. Let’s table the issue in front of us right away to discuss what to do next.
  4. I want to table that idea with you as soon as you’re ready.
  5. He tabled a brand new idea that’s going to do wonders for the department.

In British English, “table” as a verb means to hold something for discussion. We usually put an idea for a discussion forward for our bosses and managers to go through.

It’s also possible for someone to put their ideas forward to help develop a project of some kind.

American English

  1. Let’s table this conversation and come back to it later.
  2. Okay, we don’t have any time left, so let’s table this for later.
  3. I think we should table that and discuss it when there are more people around.
  4. Table it before you wear yourself out! We don’t have time for this.
  5. We should table this before it’s too late and resume the meeting tomorrow.

In American English, “table” as a verb means to postpone the discussion of a subject for a later time. Sometimes, that time is made clear in the rest of the sentence; other times, it may be left open when the discussion will resume.

Either way, it’s strange to think that two words with an identical origin and spelling came to mean such different things as they developed over the years.

Knowing which one to use can get problematic, especially for a new learner looking for a simple explanation.

Is “Let’s Table This” A British Expression?

“Let’s table this” is an expression used in both British and American English. It’s not strictly reserved for one language over the other; however, the meaning between the two is very different.

In British English, “let’s table this” means “let’s talk about this.”

In American English, “let’s table this” means “let’s discuss this another time.”

Both phrases are identical in delivery, yet the meaning is the polar opposite. It’s important to remember these differences when you’re using the phrase yourself.

So, to answer the overall question of the article, no. “Let’s table this” is not a British expression. It also occurs in other English-speaking countries. However, in American English, it means to end the discussion, while it means to begin the discussion in every other English-speaking country.

Synonyms For “Let’s Table This”

You might want to use a few synonyms in place of “let’s table this.” We’ll include synonyms for both the American and British English meanings.

British English

  • Let’s talk about this
  • Let’s discuss
  • Let’s have a discussion
  • Let’s begin
  • Let’s put our ideas together

These examples are great to show that you’re ready to open a discussion. They’re even better when used with an American person since they won’t mistake your meaning like they would if you used “table” as a verb.

American English

  • Let’s postpone this
  • Let’s delay this
  • Let’s talk about this later
  • Let’s move on
  • Let’s leave this

These examples are great to use in place of “let’s table this.” The meaning is much clearer to British English users since we’re specifically saying we want to end the discussion.