technically correct subject-verb agreement

Wilson Gray wilson.gray at RCN.COM
Thu Dec 30 22:04:32 UTC 2004

On Dec 30, 2004, at 3:14 PM, Dennis R. Preston wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Dennis R. Preston" <preston at MSU.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: technically correct subject-verb agreement
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> --------
> arnold,
> Rest easy; I am at least one more very local agreement person who
> hates the "There were liquor and ...." but can tolerate "There were
> drinks and..." (when I am out of my fixed form dialect, which is my
> vernacular and perhaps the only trustworthy one for me to report on
> (if such personal reports are worth anything outside folk
> linguistics).
> dInIs
> PS: Just to be mean, like all prescriptivists, really are, let's test
> one of these with "There was/were kudos,..."

dInIs, please! Surely *everyone* knows that "kudos" is a neuter,
nominative/accusative _singular_! ;-)


>> On Dec 29, 2004, at 8:44 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>>>> This sentence sounds fine to me.
>>>> Patty
>>> Only the singular is possible for me here.  It wouldn't be perfect,
>>> but a lot more natural than the plural.
>>> larry
>>>>> 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.  i expect variation here.  of those who have
>> agreeing, rather than fixed, verb forms in existentials, i'd  expect
>> some people to treat the coordinate phrase as just like simplex
>> plurals
>> (There were/*was many people there); this is what patty davies
>> reports.
>>  but for this coordinate example, i find only the singular fully
>> acceptable, and i'm pleased to hear that at least one other person
>> agrees.
>> what's going on for me is a small island of grammaticalized agreement
>> with the nearest .  (i have no idea what the full extent of the
>> phenomenon is for me.)  the example above contrasts (for me) with the
>> minimally different:
>>   There were/*was drinks, music, and a strong desire for my body.
>> arnold (zwicky at
> --
> Dennis R. Preston
> University Distinguished Professor of Linguistics
> Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic, Asian, and African
> Languages
> A-740 Wells Hall
> Michigan State University
> East Lansing, MI 48824
> Phone: (517) 432-3099
> Fax: (517) 432-2736
> preston at

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