common Errors-We shall begin with the study of errors in the use of nouns. The errors can be broadly classified into (common Errors)
(i) lack of agreement between the noun and the verb
(i.e., the subject and the predicate) and the pronoun,
its antecedent and its verbs. (ii) errors in the use of case.
A singular subject takes a singular verb and a plural subject a plural verb. This may appear to be a truism, but writers often use a singular verb where a plural should be used and vice versa. This is not by carelessness alone. Often it is due to their being uncertain of the number of the subject. So the first step lies in determining whether a subject is singular or plural. The problem arises when other words or phrases intervene between the subject and the verb, or when the subject is not clearly singular or plural. In a noun group there is always one important noun without which the group has no meaning. It is the head-word and it determines the number of the subject. Study the following sentences.
The first pages of the book / were missing
In this sentence ‘pages’ is the head-word and hence takes the plural ‘were’.
The roar of the lions / frightens the visitors.
Here the head word is ‘roar’ and it takes the singular verb ‘frightens’.
Everyone of the boys/ was given a book
The head-word is ‘Everyone’ a singular; ‘Each’, ‘every’, ‘everyone’, ‘anyone’, ‘nobody’ and ‘neither take singular verbs.
Nobody knows the answer.
Neither of the boys is likely to pass.
‘None’ is considered either as a plural or as a singular. So ‘none’ takes either a singular verb or a plural verb:
None of them was late.
None of them were late. . ‘
A lot of’ is used either as singular or as plural depending on what it speaks of. If the noun it speaks of is countable it takes a plural and if uncountable, singular.
A lot of boys were standing in the quadrangle. A lot of milk was wasted.
Similarly in the case of ‘all’ and ‘some’. All the boys were present. All the jam has been eaten. Some boys were absent. Some milk was left behind.
‘A number’ and ‘The number’ are respectively plural and singular.
A number of soldiers were killed.
The number of soldiers killed was large.
There are certain nouns which are notionally singular or plural. “Hair’ is always singular.
His hair is turning gray.
My hair is falling rapidly after my illness.
But ‘leaves’ is plural even though ‘leaves’ are as countable or uncountable as ‘hair’.
‘News’ is singular though it looks like a plural. When we have a plural sense we use ‘items of news’. The following words are similar to ‘news’, ‘furniture’, ‘stationery’, and so on.
‘Trousers’ and ‘scissors, though each is an object, are always plural.
My trousers are new.
Countability can be imposed on them by means of a pair of’—‘a pair of scissors’.
In the case of collective nouns normally a singular verb is used.
The committee is meeting today.
The jury is unanimous in its verdict.
However, sometimes they convey a plural idea when they require a plural verb
The cattle are grazing on the lawn.
The jury is giving its verdict.
The jury are discussing among themselves.
The following words are singular when used as the names of disciplines:
Dynamics, Acoustics, Civics, Ethics, Politics, and so on. When the subject is compound, that is, when it is made up of more than one noun joined by conjunctions and prepositional phrases, it obeys the following rules
(a) Use a plural verb when two or more subjects are joined by ‘and’
Richard and Reagen are friends
A cat and a dog are his pets.
(b) Use a singular verb with singular subjects joined by ‘or’.
Randolph or Rubens is sure to be elected.
(c) In the case of prepositional phrases connected to a noun, use the verb which agrees with the subject.
The king along with his courtiers was in the coach.
The clerks along with their manager are planning a party.
This also applies to ‘as well as’ which is known as a parenthetical construction.
Correlative conjunctions. ‘Either … or’ and ‘neither … nor’ are the most common correlative conjunctions. When they connect two singular subjects, the verb is singular in number.
Neither Jack nor his brother has any education. Either Jack or Jill is to be approached.
When both the subjects are plural the verb is plural. If one is singular and the other plural the verb is plural. The sentence is written with the singular first, the plural next and the verb in the plural.
Neither the Chief-minister nor his cabinet colleagues were able to answer the question.
If the order is reversed and the plural verb is used it is
When the verb precedes the subject, the verb must agree with the real subject of the sentence.
There was a large and noisy crowd at the gate.
If the sentence begins with an introductory ‘It’, the verb is always singular.
It is John and his brother.
It is the Bennett girls.
When quantity and not number is the idea in the sentence, a singular verb is used even if the subject appears to be plural.
Ten miles is a long distance.
Two years is a long time.
Bread and butter is my breakfast.
When attributes are applied, if all refer to one and the same noun the verb is singular
My friend, philosopher and guide is coming.
If the nouns are different, the verb is plural. The President and the Secretary are coming.
Pronouns in Agreement
The rule that applies to nouns applies here but we have to decide their number as in the case of the nouns.
‘Everyone’, ‘everybody’, ‘someone’, ‘one’, ‘no one’, ‘somebody’, ‘nobody’ are all singular.
‘Both’, ‘few’, ‘many’, ‘several’ are always plural.
‘All’, ‘any’, ‘none’, ‘some’ are either singular or plural according to the sense.
All I have with me is a few books-a collective idea and hence singular.
All the boys are expected to be present.
“One is used to represent anyone’ or’ everyone’ while you’ is used in the second person, singular or plural. When the pronoun ‘one’ is used it is not repeated as it is when it is clearly an antecedent otherwise it is repeated
One should love one’s neighbours.
If one lives in India one day and in America the next he will certainly feel the change.
When a relative pronoun is acting as the subject of a verb, the verb must agree with the antecedent of that pronoun.
He is the one among the players who always scores a goal.
He is one among the players who always score a goal.
The relative pronoun refers to the antecedent and so the verb it takes agrees not only in number but also in person with the antecedent. (Its agreement in case is discussed later.)
It is I who am (not ‘is’) to take the decision.
It is he who is to take the decision.
It is you who are to take the decision.
Use a singular pronoun in referring to a singular antecedent and a plural pronoun in referring to a plural antecedent.
Every one of the boys was given a cake.
The army is known for its discipline.
The children know their rhymes well.
Jack and Jill have finished their walk.
Neither Jack nor John has finished his work.