jester at PANIX.COM
Fri Oct 18 15:32:10 UTC 2002
I was asked a question about subject-verb agreement, and it's
raised some questions for me that I'm not sure how to answer.
The sentence was, "The stories the press tell are shaped not
by a 'liberal agenda' or a 'right wing conspiracy' but by..."
This sentence was objected to on the grounds that _press_ is
singular and thus it should read, "The stories the press tells
This objection seems to be correct. However, the original,
"The stories the press tell are shaped..." is _not_ jarring to
me, and I'm not sure why. It's not proximity concord with
_stories,_ because _press_ is directly next to _tell[s]_.
I also don't think it's a case of notional plurality of
_press._ Certainly one would never write, "The stories Smith
tell are shaped..." But one would also never, with other
collective-ish nouns, write "The stories the team tell are
shaped..." or "The stories the jury tell are shaped..."
Even though these could also be regarded as notionally plural,
_tell_ doesn't work here for me.
I'm thinking that it might be the influence of the -s ending
of _press,_ which, though not a plural ending, might suggest
plurality enough that "The stories the press tell are shaped..."
doesn't seem obviously wrong.
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