QUESTION Please advise on the correct sentence:
I think it is the second one, but a university professor from the States thinks it's the first one. We, in Canada, do have some different rules but I think the first one sounds awkward.
- One or more lid was not properly attached
- One or more lids were not properly attached
What do you think? What are the rules about this?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Calgary, Alberta, Canada Wed, Jun 6, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE With all due respect to your university professor from the States, I agree with your Canadian slant on things. The word "more" cannot possibly be asked to modify a singular "lid," and the rule about subject-verb agreement when two subjects are connected by "or" is that the verb should agree with the subject closer to it, in this case "lids." I think we can argue that the subject, in any case, is notionally plural and we want "were."
QUESTION I frequently hear broadcast news reporters and advertisements that use a plural pronoun when referring back to a singular noun. For example, a newcaster will report, "IBM has reported greater quarterly earnings than they earlier forecasted." I frequently hear it in reference to sports teams: "The Jets lost the game when their defensive line was riddled with a series of injuries." I was taught (circa 1960) that a 'company' and a 'team' were singular nouns, thus requiring a singular pronoun. When I question people on their usage, they justify the practice by noting that companies and teams are comprised of more than one human; therefore, using "they" is appropriate.
Has the "living," English language evolved since my school days, or has our education system just given up?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Eden, Utah Wed, Jun 6, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The answer to your last, either-or question is yes and no.
Collective nouns, which would include the names of companies and teams, can behave as singular entities (more often than not the case) or as groups of individuals. Thus, "the jury rendered its verdict," but "the jury took their seats." When you think of IBM's report, are you thinking of the singular corporate entity or of the members of the corporate leadership. Frankly, I think it can go either way. And I would certainly use the plural when talking about the Jets' concern with their offensive line. Yes, you will see singular verbs when referring to the singular corporate entity: "IBM/the Yankees is a great organization to work for." But I would never say that "the Yankees is playing in Boston tonight." The use of the plural in the examples you cite is not necessarily a lapse in good form.
QUESTION Coordinated Clauses Following a Subordinate Conjunction of a Loose Sentence Questions: In the example below, are the coordinated clauses below separated by "and" both clearly subordinate or is the clause after "and" a main clause? Also would the meaning change if the comma were removed?"John successfully completed his course because John's teachers provided excellent help, and John's colleagues developed ways to excel by short study." SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Surrey, BC, Canada Wed, Jun 6, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Loose sentence, indeed! The subordinating word because controls whatever follows. I wouldn't use the comma after "help" in this sentence because the conjunction is connecting the two parts (which happen to be clauses) of the subordinated clause. The comma is trying to make that last clause independent, a status it just can't manage because of because. To avoid the problem and establish a closer, clearer relationship between the first two clauses, the "because clause" could go first.
QUESTION If it is redundant to say, Mr. John Doe, Esq. Is it also redundant to say Ms. Jane Doe, President? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Denver, Colorado Thu, Jun 7, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I don't know if "redundant" is quite the word for it, but it's certainly not necessary, according to the Chicago Manual of Style. Chicago says to drop the Mr. (or whatever) when you add Esq., and not to use Mr., Ms. (whatever) when you add a title to a person's name.
Authority: Chicago Manual of Style 14th ed. U of Chicago P: Chicago. 1993. p. 463.
QUESTION A co-worker and I have a disagreement about the usage of the words "most" and "least" in front of the term "well-known" Is it correct to use these descriptive words in front of "well-known" or is it a grammatical error? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Randleman, North Carolina Thu, Jun 7, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Let's say we have three actors: one of them, a veteran of scores of films, is known by virtually everyone; the second is moderately well known most people have heard of him but are not really familiar with his work; the third, a novice, is well known, certainly, as such things go, but we can't say that most people have heard of him, not yet anyway. Isn't this third actor the least well known? And the first the most? Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see the grammatical issue here.
QUESTION A friend asked me about the sentence structure of the following sentence which is"To the north is the supermarket and other shops."Is it an inverted sentence pattern? Why the verb is "is", not "are"? Thank you very much for answering my question. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Taiwan Fri, Jun 8, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE It is inverted: the subject ("the supermarket and other shops") comes after the verb. In formal, academic text, the verb should, indeed, be "are." In colloquial speech, however, you will frequently hear something called proximity take over, and the verb will agree with the subject that is closer to the verb (the singular "supermarket"). This is particularly true in expletive constructions (such as "there is") as in "There is a man and a woman in the classroom" where the subject can be said to be existentially singular (but in formal writing, we would still use "are").
QUESTION These days I sometimes find the tag question "mustn't it?". For example:"It must be all these American programmes on the television, mustn't it?"Is "mustn't it?" used epistemically in interrogation in tag question acceptable in American English now? Do you use this form, too?
I would much appreciate it if you would answer this question.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Tokyo, Japan Sat, Jun 9, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The construction mustn't (pronounced in such a way that the first "t" remains silent) is invariably used as a negation in the sense of obligation, not necessity, as in "You mustn't keep your brother waiting." That's why the tag question "mustn't it" seems a bit peculiarbecause "must" (in the first instance) is being used in the sense of necessity, and then "mustn't it" tries to behave with the same meaning, and it's not quite up to the task. This construction is used, however, in informal speech.
Authority: A Grammar of Contemporary English by Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, and Jan Svartvik. Longman Group: London. 1978. p. 385.
QUESTION I believe the following is a sentence, but some people disagree with me. Could you tell me if I am correct."Located in the mill, a historic landmark, makes the center a unique shopping experience."Please send me the answer as soon as possible. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Annapolis, Maryland Sat, Jun 9, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE "Located in the mill" doesn't work very well as a subject, I'm afraid. It's a participial phrase, looking to modify something, and it never gets anything to modify. Can you start with something like "Its location in the historic mill makes the center. . . ." Or start with "The center's location in a historical landmark, the ________ Mill, makes shopping there a unique experience."
QUESTION ... with a unique focus and distinctive vision. Is distinctive the correct word or should it be distinct? Your opinion would be appreciated. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Fort Wayne, Indiana Sat, Jun 9, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE You want "distinctive." "Distinct" suggests that it stands apart; it's separable. But "distinctive" does a better job of conveying that sense of being distinguished as well as distinguishable. I hope that makes sense.
QUESTION I work for a shopper (free newspaper) and we have a question on the plural of boy's when used as such in a garage sale ad. Is it correct to say: boy's clothing; girl's clothing. Or is it correct to say boys' clothing or girls' clothing. The same with men's and ladies'? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Monroe, Wisconsin Sat, Jun 9, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I think you answered your own question. You don't want to offer a man's clothing, you want to sell men's clothing. The plural makes it more genericwhich is probably especially important when it's used clothing. So I would advertise boys' and girls' clothing (even when it came from only one child).
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