Saturday, February 11, 2006

Perplexed by Plurals

Here are some sites to hone your skills. Check them out:

QUIZ: Perplexed by Plurals: Verbs, Nouns and Pronouns and Their Antecedents (see worksheet below)

1. The team (take, takes) to the field today.

2. The team took (its, their) positions on the football field.

3. The jury (was, were) seated.

4. The jury (was, were) split on the verdict.

5. The staff (is/are) in a meeting.

6. The staff (is/are) in disagreement about the findings.

7. The number of infant crib deaths (has/have) risen considerably.

8. A number of drunken students (was/were) seen running down University Avenue.

9. The Gators (is, are) beating South Carolina.

10. The Jazz (is, are) a pretty good team.

11. Neither John nor Susan (is/are) available.

12. Either Kiana or Casey (helps/help) today with stage decorations.

13. Neither she nor I (am/are) going to the festival.

14. The book or the magazines (is/are) on the shelf.

15. Neither the book nor the magazines (is/are) on the table.

16. Neither Jenny nor the others (is/are) available.

17. The records or the stereo (have/has) to go.

18. Neither they nor Jenny (is/are) available.

19. Neither the workers nor their boss (wants/want) to negotiate.

20. Neither the magazines nor the book (is/are) on the table.

21. Neither of them (is/are) available to speak right now.

22. Either of us (is/are) capable of doing the job.

23. Every one of the cakes (is/are) gone.

24. Each of the girls (sings/sing) well.

25. Fifty percent of the pie (has/have) disappeared.

26. One-third of the city (is/are) unemployed.

27. All of the pie (is/are) gone.

28. All of the pies (is/are) gone.

29. Some of the pies (is/are) missing.

30. One-third of the city (is/are) unemployed.

31. One-third of the people (is/are) unemployed.

32. There (is/are four) students in the room.

33. There (is/are) one student in the room.

34. There (was/were) a time when I was sad.

35. There (was/were) many times when I was happy.

36. Here (is/are) the missing students.

37. Here (is/are) the grammar book you plan to read this weekend.

38. Ten dollars (is/are) a high price to pay.

39. Five years (is/are) the maximum sentence for that offense.

40. Ten thousand dollars (is/are) a lot of money for bail.

41. Four years (is/are) a long time to spend in any school.

42. Harold is the professor who (get/gets) the most complaints.

43. Harold and Cher are the professors who (get/gets) the most complaints.

44. None of the seats (was/were) in its right place.

45. All of the condo (was/were) destroyed

46. All of the bonds (was/were) missing.

47. Most of the day’s work (was/were) wasted.

48. None of the witnesses (is/are) expected to live to see the trial.

49. None of the stolen goods (was/were) recovered.

50. None of the consultants (agrees/agree) on the same approach.

51. None of the taxes (has/have) been paid.

52. The politician, along with the journalists, (is/are) expected shortly.

53. Excitement, as well as nervousness, (is/are) the cause of her shaking.

54. The politicians, along with the president, (is/are) expected shortly.





Perplexed by Plurals: Verbs, Nouns and Pronouns and Their Antecedents

Rule to Live By: Identify the real subject and determine whether the subject’s meaning is singular or plural.

Plural or Singular by Context – Rather than relying on a rule, you need to think

The team (take, takes) to the field today.

takes

The team took (its, their) positions on the football field.

their

This is a case of a collective noun where, by context, you have to determine if the sense of the sentence is singular or plural.

With the second example, the sense is plural because it would be odd to think of a singular team taking multiple positions.

Collective Nouns

The jury (was, were) seated.

was

The jury (was, were) split on the verdict.

Were

The staff is/are in a meeting.

is

The staff is/are in disagreement about the findings.

are

So, what is the rule?

Use a singular verb when the collective noun is being used in the sense of a single group operating in agreement.

Use a plural verb if the noun is used to name a group operating as individuals or in disagreement.

For example:

The jury was seated.

(Acting as a Unit)

The jury were split on the verdict.

(Acting as a group of individuals)

Punting

However, these kinds of constructions sometimes sound so odd to the ear, the better device is to punt and just rewrite.

For example, change

The jury were split on the verdict.

To:

The jury members were split on the verdict.

Number

The number of infant crib deaths has/have risen considerably.

has

A number of drunk students was/were seen running down University Avenue.

were

So, what is the rule?

The number used as a subject takes a singular verb.

A number refers to an undefined amount more than one. Thus it takes a plural verb.

NOTE:

The is a definite article that implies an organized unit

A is an indefinite article implying an undefined amount.

Breaking the Rules

The Gators (is, are) beating South Carolina.

are

The Jazz (is, are) a pretty good team.

are

So, what is the rule?

Even though it breaks all the rules, AP says team names are regarded as plural.

Live with it.


Either/Or – Neither/Nor

Neither John nor Susan is/are available.

is


Either Kiana or Casey helps/help today with stage decorations.

helps

Neither she nor I am/are going to the festival.

am

So, what is the rule?

Two singular subjects connected by either/or or neither/nor require a singular verb as

Neither John nor Susan is available.

Either Kiana or Casey helps today with stage decorations.

When one of your two subjects is I, put it second and follow it with the singular verb am.

Neither she nor I am going to the festival.

The book or the magazines is/are on the shelf.

are

Neither the book nor the magazines is/are on the table.

are

Neither Jenny nor the others is/are available.

are

So, what is the rule?

One rule states that:

When a singular subject is connected by or or nor to a plural subject – put the plural subject last and use a plural verb.

The book or the magazines are on the shelf.

Neither the book nor the magazines are on the table.

However, if that is too restrictive:

The records or the stereo have/has to go.

has

Neither they nor Jenny is/are available.

is

Neither the workers nor their boss wants/want to negotiate.

wants

Neither the magazines nor the book is/are on the table.

is

So, what is the rule?

In either/or or neither/nor constructions: The verb agrees with the subject closes to it.

Either and Neither

Neither of them is/are available to speak right now.

is

Either of us is/are capable of doing the job.

is

So, what is the rule?

When either and neither are subjects, they always take singular verbs.

Neither of them is available to speak right now.

Either of us is capable of doing the job.


each, everyone, everybody, anyone, anybody, someone, and somebody

Every one of the cakes is/are gone.

is

Each of the girls sings/sing well.

sings

So, what is the rule?

The pronouns each, everyone, everybody, anyone, anybody, someone, and somebody are singular. Don’t be misled by what follows of.

Each of the girls sings well.

Every one of the cakes is gone.

NOTE: Everyone is one word when it means everybody. Every one is two words when the meaning is each one.

Portions

Fifty percent of the pie has/have disappeared.

has

One-third of the city is/are unemployed.

is

All of the pie is/are gone.

is

All of the pies is/are gone.

are

Some of the pies is/are missing.

are

So, what is the rule?

When a word indicates portions: percent, fraction, part, majority, some, all, none, remainder, etc.,

look at the noun in the of phrase

If the object of the preposition is singular, use a singular verb.

If the object of the preposition is plural, use a plural verb.

Fifty percent of the pie has disappeared.

Pie is the object of the preposition of.

Fifty percent of the pies have disappeared.

Pies is the object of the preposition.

One-third of the city is/are unemployed.

NOTE: But one out of any plural number is still one and requires a singular verb: One out of ten students was late.

is

One-third of the people is/are unemployed.

are

All of the pie is/are gone.

is

All of the pies is/are gone.

are

Some of the pie is/are missing.

is

Some of the pies is/are missing.

are

Here & There

There is/are four students in the room.

are

There is/are one student in the room.

is

There was/were a time when I was sad.

was

There was/were many times when I was happy.

were

Here is/are the missing students.

are

Here is/are the grammar book you plan to read this weekend.

is

So, what is the rule?

If a sentence begins with here or there, the subject follows the verb.

Here and there are not subjects of any sentence.

Why?

Because they are not nouns.

Time & Money

Ten dollars is/are a high price to pay.

is

Five years is/are the maximum sentence for that offense.

is

Ten thousand dollars is/are a lot of money for bail.

is

Four years is/are a long time to spend in any school.

is

So, what is the rule?

With sums of money or periods of time, use a singular verb.

Who, That, Which

Harold is the professor who get/gets the most complaints.

gets

Harold and Cher are the professors who get/gets the most complaints.

get

So, what is the rule?

When the pronoun who, that, or which is the subject of the verb in the middle of the sentence:

they are singular or plural according to the noun directly in front of them.

If the noun is singular, use a singular verb.

If the noun is plural, use a plural verb.

Harold and Cher are the professors who get the most complaints.

The word in front of who is professors, which is plural.

Therefore, use the plural verb get.

Harold is the professor who gets the most complaints.

The word in front of who is professor, which is singular.

Therefore, use the singular verb gets.

any, none, some, all, most

None of the seats was/were in its right place.

was

All of the condo was/were destroyed

was

All of the bonds was/were missing.

were

Most of the day’s work was/were wasted.

was

None of the witnesses is/are expected to live to see the trial.

are

None of the stolen goods was/were recovered.

were

So, what is the rule?

Pronouns such as any, none or some and nouns such as all and most take singular verbs if they refer to a unit or take plural verbs if they refer to amount or individuals

None is especially problematic

It usually means no single one

Which takes singular verbs and pronouns:

None of the seats was in its right place.

Use a plural verb if the sense is no two or no amount:

None of the consultants agree on the same approach.

None of the taxes have been paid.

You might also want to check out: None of Your Business

Separated Subjects

The politician, along with the journalists, is/are expected shortly.

is

Excitement, as well as nervousness, is/are the cause of her shaking.

Is

The politicians, along with the president, is/are expected shortly.

are

So, what is the rule?

When the subject is separated from the verb by words such as along with, as well as, besides, or not, ignore these expressions when deciding whether to use a singular or plural verb.

The politician, along with the journalists, is expected shortly.

The politicians, along with the president, are expected shortly.

1 comment:

Adrienne Serra said...

Wow, this was really helpful. Thanks!