Friday, January 2, 2009

Answer for Alicia

Re "The rest of the group" --

"of the group" is a prepositional phrase and doesn't affect the number of the subject. This is a common point of confusion. The plural object is closer to the verb and can throw us off. I fall for it myself sometimes.

"rest" is a singular noun.

I know we're not supposed to distribute the style guide to outsider, but let's break the rules here -- one of the joys of making the rules for this sort of thing is that I can break them. :) You were talking about the style guide earlier, and this might give a taste of what's in one. (Yes, it was in there, on page 8 -- lots of agreement issues on pages 7-10 under A for Agreement.)

Agreement, Intervening Phrases

When considering the agreement of subject and verb, keep in mind that intervening phrases do not change the number of the subject.

CORRECT: The pyramid was spectacular.

CORRECT: The pyramid built by the cheerleaders was spectacular.

INCORRECT: The pyramid built by the cheerleaders were spectacular.

In all three examples, the subject is pyramid and is singular. The intervening phrase, “built by the cheerleaders,” contains a plural noun but does not change the number of the subject. The verb must remain singular.

Does that resolve it for you? If not, let me know. Jeepers, but this feels more like an email than a blog post.


Edittorrent said...

I went looking under plural/singular. And number. I think I need a bunch of hyperlinks to figure out what's what!

Okay, so "the rest" doesn't seem like a collective noun?

Kids are finally both gone, and maybe my mind will start working again. :)

Debbie Kaufman said...

Maybe this wouldn't be so hard if everyone had paid attention to their seventh grade English teachers.

Edittorrent said...

Collective nouns are singular when we refer to the entity as a whole. It's similar to the fewer/less distinction. Because the collection of individuals left behind are *all* left behind -- that is, they are joined by this common characteristic into one mass -- it's singular.

If you had something like,
The rest of the group were scattered over a wide geographic area
then "rest" would be plural because the individuals are not in one mass, but are spread out in separate bits. (I hope that example makes sense -- trying to think fast here.)

The rest of the eggs were cracked.
(Each egg is separately cracked. They don't all share one crack.)

Compared to,
The rest of his sentence was not important.

You see? I'm probably not explaining this very well.

"Group" can also be singular or plural the same way.

That's my take on it, anyway. I checked two dictionaries. One says "rest" is plural, and the other says singular or plural, so obviously there is some room for disagreement.


Sandy James said...

How funny! This subject/verb agreement is exactly what my school is working on as one of our Public Law 221 goals! I've had to teach lesson of agreement in my US history and psychology classes!

Riley Murphy said...

I don’t know about anybody else but, the words:‘this feels more like an email’ kind of freaked me out. This is what your emails, to each other, look like?! Yikes! You guys really are dedicated...

Edittorrent said...

Yes, Murphy, it's true. I am the world's most boring correspondent. ;)


Edittorrent said...

Actually, Murphy, I sent Theresa an email tonight-- "Are you watching the Colts game?"

Hey, we do have our priorities!

Riley Murphy said...

I’m so relieved to hear that. I mean, if you saw the kinds of emails I send and receive, you’d know why I say this. :) Alas, I can, once more, sleep at night - knowing that I don’t always have to be submerged in my craft.

Who am I kidding? I haven’t been able to catch any ZZZ’s since Theresa made the suggestion of a Beta reader., panic attacks have a way of keeping me up at night, you know?

em said...

I was paying attention in 7th grade English and I still get confused about these things.:(
What's a beta reader? Did I miss something? I knew I shouldn't have gone on holiday.

Anonymous said...

Theresa, your clarification in the comments is excellently clear. Now if only I could use that same sort of clarity when trying to explain my edits to writers I'm working with, the world would be a blessed place. It's always good to know others struggle in explaining these things as well.