Category: Singular vs. Plural

A Twenty-first Century Usage Guide

Posted on Tuesday, May 12, 2015, at 9:57 pm

Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words by best-selling writer-editor Bill Bryson offers serious scholarship with a smooth, light touch. It’s a hard book to stop reading once you’ve opened it. We have a lot of other reference books in our offices, but the most recent of those came out in 1983. That was way back in …

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Media Watch

Posted on Tuesday, February 17, 2015, at 3:23 pm

Here is another batch of fizzles and fumbles from dailies and periodicals. • Headline for an editorial: “Let he who is without spin.” It’s clever, it’s glib, it’s … a disaster. It’s supposed to be a twist on a well-known biblical verse, but that verse is routinely misquoted. Many people believe it goes like this: …

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Rules, Policies, and Judgment Calls

Posted on Tuesday, February 10, 2015, at 4:23 pm

Readers seemed to enjoy “Are Two r’s One Too Many?” our column about the pronunciation of February. But we also received a few emails like this one: “Why on earth is there an apostrophe in the title??” We understand the reader’s concern. Starting in grade school, English teachers rail against sentences like “Banana’s make good snack’s.” Students …

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Media Watch

Posted on Monday, November 24, 2014, at 8:41 pm

Here is another batch of bloopers from dailies and periodicals. • “Canada is sending between 50 to 100 military advisers.” Can anyone explain the presence of “between” in that sentence? • “He showed a much improved grasp of the English language than a year ago.” Someone who writes “much improved than a year ago” should …

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Verbal Illusions

Posted on Tuesday, November 4, 2014, at 2:14 pm

Today we’ll look at three perplexing sentences that are the verbal equivalent of optical illusions. • Every man and woman has arrived. Why has? The phrase man and woman denotes a plural subject. Consider the following grammatically sound sentence: The happy man and woman have arrived. Every and happy both function as adjectives that modify man and woman in these almost identical sentences. But every is so powerfully singular that …

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