Category: Subject and Verb Agreement

Media Watch

Posted on Tuesday, November 3, 2015, at 10:51 pm

What better way to begin a Media Watch column than with headlines? Here are two recent ones that got our attention: • “Bacteria has sickened more than 100.” • “Foreclosure crisis makes taught thriller.” “Bacteria has sickened” is incorrect because has is singular and bacteria is the plural of bacterium. If the headline writer balked …

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Media Watch

Posted on Tuesday, August 4, 2015, at 7:19 pm

Here is another assemblage of less than shining achievements in journalism. • From a review of a movie about a ninety-three-year-old designer: “She makes no attempt to deny the pains and rigors of life in her ninth decade.” Let’s see now, a three-year-old is in her first decade; a thirteen-year-old is in her second decade; …

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Singular They Part II

Posted on Tuesday, June 9, 2015, at 4:12 pm

Despite curmudgeons’ howls, the singular they has become respectable. Many editors at the recent American Copy Editors Society conference declared themselves open to the once-frowned-upon use of they with a singular antecedent. English is an often imperfect language that makes the best of its shortcomings. We say “none are,” despite the prominent one in none, …

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How Can They Be Singular?

Posted on Tuesday, June 2, 2015, at 1:04 pm

Which of the following sentences is incorrect: A) It’s enough to drive anyone out of his senses. B) It’s enough to drive anyone out of his or her senses. C) It’s enough to drive anyone out of their senses. Those who consider themselves “old school” would likely consider C incorrect: their is plural but its antecedent, …

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What Kind of Rule Is Usually?

Posted on Tuesday, May 19, 2015, at 2:38 pm

A thought-provoking inquiry showed up recently in our inbox: I can’t decide which verb is correct in sentences like the following. Would I write There are three kilograms of flour in the kitchen or There is three kilograms of flour in the kitchen? Two meters of fabric is here or Two meters of fabric are …

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