humbling moment: (was Re: technically correct subject-verb agreement)

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Tue Jan 11 00:38:33 UTC 2005

On Dec 31, 2004, at 1:04 PM, i wrote:

> On Dec 30, 2004, at 10:50 AM, i wrote:
>>>>> Going to his house was what I lived for. There were liquor, music,
>>>>> and
>>>>> a strong desire for my body.
>> just to remind people: this isn't a vote on what the "real" grammar of
>> english is, or should be...

looking for something else, today i checked the MWDEU entry for "there
is, there are" and discovered that this is a well-traveled road.
...when a compound subject follows the verb and the first element is
singular, we find mixed usage--the verb may either be singular or
plural.  Jespersen... explains the singular verb as a case of
attraction of the verb to the first subject, and illustrates it... from
Perrin & Ebbitt 1972 also suggests that many writers feel the plural
verb is awkward before a singular noun, and Bryant 1962 cites studies
that show the singular verb is much more common in standard English.

nothing new, etc.

meanwhile, geoff pullum writes to say that most of the neat split
infinitive data i've been assembling were laid out in the syntax volume
of Curme's grammar (1931).


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