Category: Subject and Verb Agreement

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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Collective Nouns and Consistency

Posted on Tuesday, July 8, 2014, at 4:43 pm

In American English, most collective nouns take singular verbs—except when a sentence emphasizes the individuals in the group, not the group as a whole. In a sentence like The faculty is organized into eight departments, the collective noun faculty is singular. But consider The university’s faculty are renowned scholars in their own right. In that …

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These Nouns Present Singular Problems

Posted on Tuesday, July 1, 2014, at 9:02 pm

Let’s talk about nouns with split personalities. A collective noun (e.g., group, team, jury, flock, herd) is a paradox: singular in form (the team, a jury, one flock) but plural in meaning—who ever heard of a one-person group or a one-goat herd? Whenever we use a collective noun as a subject, we must decide whether …

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When They Is a Cop-out

Posted on Monday, April 28, 2014, at 6:40 pm

Ours is a language of traps and pitfalls. Anyone serious about writing in English has to take on problems no one has ever quite solved. One of the most obstinate of these, as inescapable as it is confounding, concerns singular pronouns that have plural connotations (everyone, nobody, anyone, somebody, etc.). Even fine writers on occasion …

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