singular debris?

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Thu Jul 22 14:34:29 UTC 1999

For real speakers, agreement is much more often with the "sense" than with
the traditional form. "A gob of guys are in the other room." I would have
to be threatened to say "A gob of guys is..." (to agree with singular

dInIs (not always a real speaker, having been successfully thrreatened from
time to time)

>On Wed, 21 Jul 1999 17:53:49 -0500 Pafra & Scott Catledge
><scplc at GS.VERIO.NET> writes:
>>That usage is more of a limited count noun than a plural.  I do not
>>that you would hear two debris anymore than you would two guts; you
>>hear "he's got lots of guts" as an alternative to "a lot of guts."
>>----- Original Message -----
>>From: Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU>
>>Sent: Tuesday, July 20, 1999 9:38 AM
>>Subject: Re: singular debris?
>>> barbara need asks when DEBRIS became singular.  i've used
>>> it all my life as a mass noun, hence as singular in its
>>> agreement pattern.  and i don't recall ever having heard/seen
>>> it used as a plural count noun; LOTS OF DEBRIS WERE SCATTERED
>>> ON THE BEACH makes me break out all over in asterisks, in fact.
>Lots of junk were scattered on the beach vs.
>Lots of junk was scattered on the beach...
>("of junk," "of debris," or "of things" is irrelevant.)
>The subject of "scattered" is "lots."
>Plural:  Is it Lot 1 of junk, Lot 2 of junk, ... Lot n of junk?
>Singular:  the "lots of junk" considered as one object, as in
>        "ham and eggs is my favorite breakfast."

Dennis R. Preston
Professor of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston at
Office: (517)353-0740
Fax: (517)432-2736

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