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jdporter (36)

Journal of jdporter (36)

Monday June 17, 2002
02:09 PM


[ #5720 ]

Subject and verb must match in number.

I see this error all the time, and it's really getting out of hand.

The other day, I was watching some show on the Discovery Wings channel about some newfangled helicopter. The narrator -- who, embarrassingly, spoke with a refined British accent -- said, "The first of five prototypes are scheduled to fly next year..."

(If you don't understand why that's an error, please email me.)

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  • It's a common fallacy that "singular" and "plural" are absolute concepts. Grammarians always assert that they are, and there's no harm in insisting on on "is" in "The first of five prototypes {is|are} scheduled to fly next year." But frankly, I find that there's usually vastly more important things to worry about, in any piece of writing, than the case where a heavy NP subject ending with a plural NP throws the verb into plural (or fails to force singularness on the verb, depending on your model of things
    • The problem you illustrated is purely one of semantics. That's a whole nother (:-) level, which I am going to avoid. Clearly, for the purposes of communication, one should tolerate some degree of bad syntax if that's the price for semantic clarity.