Wednesday, November 01, 2006

More grade-school grammar

Matching singular subjects with singular verbs and plural subjects with plural verbs need not be a difficult task. But there are a couple of situations that seem to give people - including NYT reporters - trouble:

(1) Certain collective but singular subjects (this is my terminology) are often wrongly treated as plural. An example of this phenomenon would be the following: "Everyone must check their [should be "his" rather than "their"] bags at the door."

(2) When a singular subject is followed by a prepositional phrase with a plural object, the object is often incorrectly treated as the subject of the sentence: "Each of the students are [should be "is" rather than "are"]going to the game."

Now, in this NYT article, the reporters face a double-whammy that they (quite understandably) were unable to navigate - both of the aforementioned complications in the very same sentence:

To date, none of the Republicans who have spoken out have [should be "has" rather than "have," since "none" is a singular subject] called for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, and some had expressed previous reservations about the war or opposed it initially.


Blogger YK said...

um, i've discovered that i was wrong on this one. when i was kid (a million years ago), "none" was always a singular subject. today, the rules have been relaxed: "none" may still be treated as singular in all cases, or - if the context of the sentence makes clear that the intent is "not any" (e.g. as in, "none of the people"), then "none" may be treated as plural. sorry!

5:10 PM  

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