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Subject Verb Agreement : Use of AND

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Subject Verb Agreement : Use of AND [#permalink] New post 20 Sep 2012, 22:56
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Could someone explain SVA rules associated with AND

1. Joe and his friends are going to the beach -> Plural
2. Just around the corner are a fantastic bakery and a small supermarket -> Plural
3. The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were occupied by Upper Paleolithic people has been established by carbon-14 dating, but what is much more difficult to determine is the reason for their decoration, the use to which primitive people put the caves, and the meaning of the magnificently depicted animals. -> Singular

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J
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Re: Subject Verb Agreement : Use of AND [#permalink] New post 21 Sep 2012, 00:52
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jennyv wrote:
Could someone explain SVA rules associated with AND

1. Joe and his friends are going to the beach -> Plural
2. Just around the corner are a fantastic bakery and a small supermarket -> Plural
3. The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were occupied by Upper Paleolithic people has been established by carbon-14 dating, but what is much more difficult to determine is the reason for their decoration, the use to which primitive people put the caves, and the meaning of the magnificently depicted animals. -> Singular

Thanks,
J


Hi Jenny
Maybe I can be of some help to you.

“and” can unite two or more singular subjects, forming a compound plural subject and that's exactly what's shown in the first two examples.

You have got the third exmaple wrong. "is" there acts as the verb for the subject "reason" which is singular. The sentence should be read like

"The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were occupied by Upper Paleolithic people has been established by carbon-14 dating, but what is much more difficult to determine is the reason for their decoration, (is) the use to which primitive people put the caves, and (is) the meaning of the magnificently depicted animals. We neglect "is" because of repetition but is understood.

Hope this helps !
:-D
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Re: Subject Verb Agreement : Use of AND [#permalink] New post 21 Sep 2012, 03:26
Hi getgyan,

Your explanation makes sense.. But here is were it gets confusing.

John AND his friends -> compound statement-> Plural
Bakery and Supermarket -> compound statement-> Plural

The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were occupied by Upper Paleolithic people has been established by carbon-14 dating, but what is much more difficult to determine is the reason for their decoration, the use to which primitive people put the caves, and the meaning of the magnificently depicted animals.

According to explanations given by Ron http://www.manhattangmat.com/forums/post31277.html#p31277, the reason...,the use ..., and the meaning is a list connected with AND. In such cases you must consider the list as a single subject, hence single verb "is" is preferred.

Any thoughts?

Thanks,
Jenny
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Re: Subject Verb Agreement : Use of AND [#permalink] New post 21 Sep 2012, 10:29
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jennyv wrote:
Could someone explain SVA rules associated with AND
3. The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were occupied by Upper Paleolithic people has been established by carbon-14 dating, but what is much more difficult to determine is the reason for their decoration, the use to which primitive people put the caves, and the meaning of the magnificently depicted animals. -> Singular
Thanks,
J

Dear JennyV,

I'm happy to help with this. :-)

Actually, I will respectfully disagree with getgyan's analysis. If there are several terms in the subject of a sentence, they must be construed as plural --- it is invalid to interpret it as a parallel string of singular subjects and implicit singular verbs. Something quite different is going on sentence #3.

Let's go back and look at sentences #1 & #2 --- I will highlight the subject in green and underline the verb.
1. Joe and his friends are going to the beach
2. Just around the corner are a fantastic bakery and a small supermarket

Of course, the subject doesn't always come before the verb -- if we have something un-noun-like in front of the verb --- a preposition, an adjective, an adverb, etc. --- then we have to look for the subject after the verb. That's clear. Now, look at sentence #3:

3. The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were occupied by Upper Paleolithic people has been established by carbon-14 dating, but what is much more difficult to determine is the reason for their decoration, the use to which primitive people put the caves, and the meaning of the magnificently depicted animals.

You see, what we have in the second half of sentence #3 is a subordinate clause that acts as a noun. Sometimes, this is called a substantive clause. Other examples include

4. How you choose to drive to Las Vegas does not matter to ....

5. Whether you prefer Rachmaninov's music to Chopin's does not mean ....

6. Who actually shot JFK is not as much the issue as .....

Notice that when one of these clauses-acting-like-a-noun is the the subject of the sentence, it is automatically singular and takes a singular verb. That's why the verb has to be "is", not "are", in the second half of sentence #3.

One of these clauses-acting-like-a-noun can also occupy any other noun-role in a sentence --- direct object, indirect object, object of a preposition, subject of an infinitive, etc. etc.

7. The teacher will never know who really broke the vase. (Substantive clause is a direct object.)

8. The king will give whoever slayed the dragon the hand of his daughter, the princess, in marriage. (Substantive clause is an indirect object.)

9. After saving the town, the stranger returned from whence he came. (Substantive clause is the object of a prepositional phrase.)

Does all this make sense?

Mike :-)
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Re: Subject Verb Agreement : Use of AND [#permalink] New post 22 Sep 2012, 00:21
Hi Mike

Thanks for saving my day and in fact Jenny’s too! :)

I have a few doubts regarding what you posted. I totally agree with your point that when clauses-acting-like-a-noun is the subject of the sentence, it is automatically singular and takes a singular verb.
I confused it with the exception. I have read that the noun clauses that begin with “What” is an exception to this rule.
For Ex: What worries him more than anything else are his low grades in his major.

http://www.slideshare.net/annaflorence/ ... v2-4964979

Here the verb "are" agrees with "grades". On a similar note, in the sentence “what is much more difficult to determine is the reason for their decoration” I thought the verb “is” should agree with “reason”.
I do not trust the source completely so I will take your words as final.

@Jenny – Sorry, for the inconvenience caused.
:(
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Re: Subject Verb Agreement : Use of AND [#permalink] New post 25 Sep 2012, 13:05
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getgyan wrote:
Hi Mike
I have a few doubts regarding what you posted. I totally agree with your point that when clauses-acting-like-a-noun is the subject of the sentence, it is automatically singular and takes a singular verb.
I confused it with the exception. I have read that the noun clauses that begin with “What” is an exception to this rule.
For Ex: What worries him more than anything else are his low grades in his major.

http://www.slideshare.net/annaflorence/ ... v2-4964979

Here the verb "are" agrees with "grades". On a similar note, in the sentence “what is much more difficult to determine is the reason for their decoration” I thought the verb “is” should agree with “reason”. I do not trust the source completely so I will take your words as final.

getgyan and jennyv,
I must apologize. I am revising my position on sentence #3. I did quite a bit of checking, through contradictory sources, but the source I am taking as authoritative is the Oxford English Grammar, by Greenbaum, a truly extraordinary reference work.

First of all, this grammatical construction bears a few different names --- "noun clause", "substantive clause", and the Oxford book refers to it as a "nominal clause." These are full (noun + verb) clauses that, as a unit, act as noun and occupy one of the noun-roles in a sentence. When a substantive clause, or nominal clause, is the subject, then in the overwhelming majority of cases, it is construed as singular and takes a singular verb. That much is probably all you need to know for the GMAT SC. Probably everything beyond this is beyond the GMAT.

There is an exception to this rule --- what the Oxford book calls a "relative nominal clause" --- that is a nominal clause that begins with a "nominal relative pronoun". The ten nominal relative pronouns are:
who, whom, whoever, whomever, whosoever, which, whichever, what, whatever, whatsoever
(I would bet every donkey on planet Earth that you will never see the words "whosoever" or "whatsoever" as a crucial deciding word in a GMAT SC problem!)
Unlike other substantive or nominal clauses, a relative nominal clause don't automatically take the singular --- they can take the plural if the nominal relative pronoun is interpreted as plural. That's the crucial point: how is the number (i.e. singular or plural) of that pronoun understood?

Let's look at this sentence

The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were occupied by Upper Paleolithic people has been established by carbon-14 dating, but what ____ much more difficult to determine _____ the reason for their decoration, the use to which primitive people put the caves, and the meaning of the magnificently depicted animals.

We need to fill "is" or "are" into each of those two blanks. First of all, whatever goes in one blank must go in the other as well --- if we determine the pronoun "what" is singular, that requires a singular verb inside the clause, and it makes the entire clause function as a singular noun, so the other blank will have to have a singular verb as well. Likewise, when both are plural. Ultimately, the word "what" refers to that list of three things, so it must be plural, and therefore both verbs must be plural.

The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were occupied by Upper Paleolithic people has been established by carbon-14 dating, but what are much more difficult to determine are the reason for their decoration, the use to which primitive people put the caves, and the meaning of the magnificently depicted animals.

Sometimes, when the nominal relative pronoun does not act as the subject inside the clause, we need to look what follows the verb to determine the number of the pronoun. For example,

What I find objectionable is all the noise during the film.

What I find objectionable are all the people who talk during the film.

Where he lives is a small hamlet outside Stockholm.

Where he lives are fourteen different caves on the cliffs off the Dingle Peninsula.

Whomever you heard making noise in the courtyard at 3 a.m. was most likely a deranged individual.

Whomever you heard making noise in the courtyard at 3 a.m. were arrested and taken away in several police cars.

Notice, with all due respect to the "slideshare" website --- it's a little more than just noun clauses that begin with "what" --- technically, such a clause could begin with any of the nominal relative pronouns listed above.
Ultimately, in some cases, the only way you would know the correct number of the verb is by understanding the context. After all, int he big picture, GMAT SC is an artificial task: correcting a sentence out-of-context. What matters in the long run is how we use grammar in the world: when you know the context, you will know the proper number, and you can determine the number of each verb accordingly.
NOTICE: we are in the stratosphere of English grammar here. Deciding the correct verb number following a nominal relative clauses--- I can absolutely guarantee this will not be a task on GMAT SC. Even the idea of a simple noun-clause as the subject of a sentence is relatively unlikely to appear.

Does all this make sense?

Mike :-)
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Re: Subject Verb Agreement : Use of AND [#permalink] New post 28 Sep 2012, 00:38
Thanks Mike for clearing the doubt. You gave us some real learning today.

Really appreciate your gesture. :)
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Re: Subject Verb Agreement : Use of AND   [#permalink] 28 Sep 2012, 00:38
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