QUESTION What is the correct verb tense in the following two sentences, and give the rationale used.
In item 2, i think that if the word "number" is preceeded by "the" then use the singular verb and if the word "number" is preceeded by "a" then use the plural verb. Is this correct? If so, does this rule apply to sentence 1 as well? Thanks
- A total of 149 tests (was, were) conducted during the demonstration.
- A number of men (was, were) killed.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Bel Air, Maryland Tue, Aug 3, 1999 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE It seems to work. "A total of 149 tests were conducted." "The total of airplane crashes has gone down dramatically. . . ." It's not really a matter of tense, though; it's a matter of subject-verb agreement. "The total" is singular; "a total" is plural. It works very consistently with "number," and I assume the same is true with "total," but I hadn't thought of it before.
QUESTION What is the word which describes addind words such as eh, hmm, like, uh, um into your sentence.EX. It is quite, um, a humid day. The rain, like, cools things down a little. Um, I think that we should, um, do something today, but um, I can't think of anything.Thank you. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Washington, D.C. Tue, Aug 3, 1999 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Fowler calls them "filler."
Authority: The New Fowler's Modern English Usage edited by R.W. Burchfield. Clarendon Press: Oxford, England. 1996. Used with the permission of Oxford University Press.
QUESTION Which is correct: There are two types of car on the road, or There are two types of cars on the road? That is, in the expression "types of X," when the word "types" is plural, should the object of the preposition "of" also be plural? Thank you. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Chicago, Illinois Tue, Aug 3, 1999 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I think it depends on whether you're talking about something that's countable"There are two types of chairs in this house."or something that's not countable"There are two types of furniture in this house." I'll leave an e-mail icon here in case someone has a better idea.
QUESTION Could you tell me which is better?
Thanks a lot!
- Los Angeles has a higher number of family dwellings per capita than does any other large city.
- Los Angeles has higher numbers of family dwellings per capita than any other large city.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Somewhere, Pennsylvania Wed, Aug 4, 1999 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I would change it to "a greater number" and, for the sake of parallel form, I would keep the verb after the "than."Los Angeles has a greater number of family dwellings per capital than does any other large city.
QUESTION In this sentence,Paint can explosion leaves man injured,would paint can be hyphenated? We have gone back and forth on this, and would like to know. For the record, I don't think paint can should be hyphenated. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Asheville, North Carolina Thu, Aug 5, 1999 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Within the text of this story, we can avoid the problem by talking about the explosion of a paint can, but in the headline, we're stuck. I agree that hyphenating paint can is a cop-out; you can't do that. But the headline remains hard to read. Can you make the paint can's explosion possessive? Or "Man injured by/in paint can explosion"?
QUESTION in these examples, wich would be grammatically correct? and could you explain why?
This is in hopes to settle a "bar room" argument. Thank you
- Tom wrecked the car on accident.
- Tom wrecked the car by accident.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Glendale, Arizona Thu, Aug 5, 1999 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I don't know where "on accident" comes from. My kids used to use this phrase all the time. "It's not my fault. It happened 'on accident'!" I thought it was a regional expression, something they picked up in southern New England, but it crops up all over. "By accident" is certainly the more common, standard expression. The preposition "on" seems to have imperialist tendencies, creeping into places"standing on line, waiting on the bus"where "in" and "for" were doing their job quite nicely.
QUESTION How do I handle these types of possessives?:my employer's benefit's programthank you SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Westport, Connecticut Thu, Aug 5, 1999 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I don't think that "benefits" needs to be a possessive in that construction. It's a "benefits program." You could change it to "program of benefits," if it still bothers you, but there's certainly nothing wrong with "my employer's benefits program [or package]."
QUESTION My question is about whether singular sounding team names are actually singular. For example:
The same example can be applied to the Miami Heat, Utah Jazz, etc... I believe that a team name can't be singular because a team is a group of individuals by nature. However I know somebody who claims to have a BA in English who disagrees, I think he's got BS, not a BA. Anyway thanks for your help, this is a great site you have.
- The Orlando Magic are leading in the fourth quarter.
- The Orlando Magic is leading in the fourth quarter.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Boston, Massachusetts Thu, Aug 5, 1999 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I don't know if your argument really helps: a team can certainly act as a singular entity. However, the question is whether the name of a team can act as a singular proper noun or not. I think for the sake of consistency, we have to use these team names as plurals. We cannot say, for example, that the Celtics (or plug in Patriots, Yankees, Redsox, Cardinalsany clearly plural name) has improved or is improving. We have to use plural verbs with those names ("have," "are"). And I do agree with you that when we use those oddly singular team namesConnecticut Pride, New York Liberty, Orlando Magic, Stanford Cardinalthe team is acting as a group of individuals and ought to carry a plural verb: The Orlando Magic have improved, are improving, etc. To make the team name act as a singular entity, I think you'd have to throw in a term like "The Orlando Magic team is improving, or "The New York Liberty organization has procured the services of. . ." Now I'll have to read the sports pages to see how they're handling this question.
QUESTION Can the word "since" be used as a conjunction, for example, as a synonym for "because" (e.g., "Since I am an immigrant, I am scrupulous about my grammar.")? or may "since" only be used in the temporal sense as a preposition (e.g., "since this morning this grammar question has been nagging at me")?
Can the word "as" be used in like fashion (e.g., "As I am an immigrant, I am scrupulous about my grammar.")? or may "as" be used only as a preposition, as a synonym for "like" (e.g., "I'm dumb as a post.")?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE New York, New York Thu, Aug 5, 1999 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Both "because" and "since" can be used to mean "for the reason that." You want to be careful, though, that "since" can't be misinterpreted with its "temporal" meaning ("since this morning"). In other words, if there's a chance that "since" can be misunderstood, use "because." The same is true of "as": don't use it to mean "because" where there is any chance it could be misunderstood in the temporal sense ("while"). Using "as" instead of "because" is apt to sound rather fussy and stilted anyway.
Authority: New York Public Library Writer's Guide to Style and Usage HarperCollins: New York. 1994. p. 40. Cited with permission.
QUESTION Whoa! Stop! Cease! Regarding agreement, your admonition to use the awkward, feminist, pc phrase "his or her" perpetuates a stylistic abomination. At least present the traditional (traditional, tried and true--with the exception of the last 30 miserable years, that is) use of "his" alone as an alternative for anyone who has his head on straight. When kids start writing grammar texts this is the result. Stop it! SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Villa Park, Illinois Thu, Aug 5, 1999 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE If your note refers to my treatment of this issue in the section on Pronouns, I think you're misreading my language. I state that too many his and her's can be annoying, and I don't recommend that particular solution when student writers are conscientiously trying to avoid sexist language. I recommend pluralizing whenever possibleor choosing one gender or the other and sticking with it consistently. In fact, I would rather my students use "their" as a singular gender-nonspecific pronoun. Great writersShakespeare, Austen, among themhave been using "their" as a substitute for "his" for centuries.
I applaud efforts to make the language less sexistas long as such efforts don't make the language less elegant (which is why I don't like a constant use of "his and her" or "his or her" or, worse yet, "his/her.") Losing the traditional "his" for all singular pronoun situations, however, is a good idea, and I see nothing "pc," feminist, or childish about it.
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