- promissory estoppel: promise made by one person to another, so that the second person relies on the promise and acts to his detriment, and the first person is
stopped from denying the validity of the promise Dictionary of Law, Collin: 1993
Many words and phrases have a peculiar meaning, completely different from their ordinary meaning. For example, consideration is a common ordinary word but
in legal English, it means the price but not necessarily money paid by one person in exchange for the other person promising to do something, an essential element in the
formation of a contract Dictionary of Law, Collin: 1993: 53. Other examples are personal property, construction, prefer, redemption, furnish, hold, etc.
b Unusual and archaic words and phrases
Many words and phrases in legal English have their origins in French or Latin, as described above. Some examples are proposal, effect, society, assurance, insured,
schedule, duly, signed, agreeing, policy, subject, rules, form, terms, conditions, date, entrance, accepted French origins; basis, table, declaration, registered, stated, part
Latin origins. Unfamiliar pronouns like the same, the said, the aforementioned are used not
to replace the nouns, but to supplement them, as in the said John Smith. Here-, there- and where- words and their derivatives -at, -in, -after, -before,
-with, -by, -above, -on, -upon, etc, which are uncommon in ordinary English, are used primarily to avoid the repetition of names of things in the document or of the
document itself. The parties to this contract shall then be reduced to the parties hereto.
Legal English makes great use of wordy and redundant phrases where the use of a single word would be enough: at slow speed instead of slowly, subsequent to
instead of after, etc.
184.108.40.206.2. Syntactic features a Word and phrase levels
Very often in legal English, two or three words of the same grammatical category are strung together with ‘and’ or ‘or’ to convey a single legal concept; for
example null and void; fit and proper; perform and discharge; dispute, controversy or claim; signed and delivered; I give, devise and bequeath the rest, residue and
remainder; act or omission; wholly and exclusively; etc. Words used in such constructions at times mean exactly the same thing null and void; will and
testament, and at other times do not dispute, controversy or claim. Complex prepositional phrases with the construction of P-N-P are used in
place of simple prepositions to enhance precision and clarity: for the purpose of, in respect of, in accordance with, etc.
There is a tendency in legal English to imitate French grammatical structures to arrange words in a distinctly strange order, as in the provisions for termination
hereinafter appearing or will at the cost of the borrower forthwith comply with the same.
Post-modifications in nominal groups are often extended to a rather abnormal length: any installment then remaining unpaid, hereinbefore reserved and agreed to
be paid during the term.
b Sentence level
Lengthy and complex sentences Sentences in legal language are often longer and more complex than in other styles
because they have more embeddings. Here is an excerpt – one sentence - from section 9 of the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977, UK:
9.2 Where on a breach the contract is nevertheless affirmed by a party entitled to treat it as repudiated, this does not of itself
exclude the requirement of reasonableness in relation to any contract term.
Syntactic discontinuity One reason for sentences in legal documents to be so lengthy and confusing is the fact
that the subject is often separated from the verb, or the verb complexes are split. For example:
The Lord Chancellor may from time to time prescribe and publish forms of contracts and conditions of sale of land, and the forms so prescribed shall, subject to any
modification, or modification, or any stipulation or intention to the contrary, expressed in the correspondence, apply to contracts by correspondence, and may,
but only by express reference thereto, be made to apply to any other cases for which the forms are made available.
Section 46, Law of Property Act 1925, UK
In the above example, modifications have split the following verb complexes: may prescribe and publish; shall apply; may be made to apply.
Negation Legal English makes use of a considerably great amount of negation
Impersonal constructions + Avoidance of first and second personal pronouns
Sex offenders shall register with the police … + Passives
+ Nominalizations No will shall be revoked by any presumption of an intention on the ground of
an alteration in circumstances. Use of modal verbs to establish rights and obligations
The major aim of statutory provisions is to establish rights and obligations within their scope of regulation. They can either point out what the subjects are obliged to
do, what they are not allowed to do, or what they can choose to do or not. For establishing obliged and forbidden actions, the modal verbs “must” and “shall” are
used, with “shall” being preferred and not being used simply as a marker of future tense as it often is. For establishing permitted actions, the modal verbs “may” and
“can” are used, with “may” being preferred.
220.127.116.11.3. Textual features