Monday, July 28, 2014

Any of You Interested in This?


Very often we hear expressions like 'One of his friends...', 'One of my books...' and so on. It goes without saying that this type of noun phrase should be treated as singular; we're talking only about that 'one', not the rest of 'his friends' or 'my books'. Though some people use a plural verb due to the proximity of the plural latter part of the phrase, it's generally not considered acceptable.

One of his friends has won an international award.

There's another somewhat similar pattern, which however calls for a plural verb.

She’s one of those people who never take no for an answer.

Here the relative clause starting with 'who' relates to all 'those people', not just the one person referred to as 'she' at the beginning of the sentence. However, in usage there are many examples where one finds a singular verb with this structure. Maybe it's the influence of the earlier pattern.

Then there are expressions with 'any of', which may take singular or plural verbs.

Do you know whether any of your friends is/are interested in joining us?
(In this type of sentence both singular and plural verbs can be seen, with the singular being preferred in formal situations.)

This is the case with 'none' as well.

None of their relatives was/were present at the party.

However, ‘any of’ or ‘none’ may only take either a singular or a plural verb in some contexts.

Any of those children is able to do it. (Any one of them is able to do it.)

Almost none of my friends believe that. (Very few of them believe that.)

On the other hand, in sentences with 'either' or 'neither', and both subjects in the singular, most still seem to prefer singular verbs; although plurals are also seen in informal use, some people hold that to be unacceptable.

Either your father or your mother has to accompany you.

Neither he nor his wife was willing to accept defeat.

If one of the two subjects is plural, the verb generally agrees with the one closer to it.

Either one girl or two boys are going to be selected.

Either two girls or one boy is going to be selected.

Another confusing case is when a singular subject is followed by a plural complement. Though the verb normally agrees with the subject, it may sometimes be made to match the complement instead if it's separated from the subject by several other words.

The most boring part was the meetings in the afternoon.

The most boring part of the workshop last week was/were the meetings in the afternoon.

What we need is/are some new members.

The following patterns are also worth noting.

A man and a woman are to come here tomorrow.

A man with two women is to come here tomorrow.

A man, together with two women, is to come here tomorrow.

A man, as well as two women, is to come here tomorrow.

A man or a woman is to come here tomorrow.

A man or two women are to come here tomorrow.

Two women or a man is to come here tomorrow.

Image credit: 
Heisenberg Media

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Want to Switch Lunch and Dinner?

Have you ever considered skipping a meal? Perhaps you have - for health reasons or otherwise. How about switching meals? Is it even possible to do so?

As far as I was concerned, there were three main meals in the day: breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast came as the first meal in the morning - and the name is also logical as you break your nightly fast (= a time period spent without consuming food) with it. Lunch was what we had around midday and it could be a light meal on a school day or a better deal on a holiday. Dinner was the evening meal taken at home and it usually was a family affair. It was as simple as that.

Things don't seem to be quite so clear-cut all over the English-speaking world though. Some communities - for example people in Northern England or in the American South - refer to their midday meal as dinner and what they have in the evening is called supper. Others have lunch at midday and dinner in the evening, like we do, but there's an additional late-evening light meal called supper.

One explanation is that dinner is supposed to be the main meal of the day. So if you have your largest meal in the daytime, you call it dinner. This was the case with working-class people who needed a copious meal during the day to give them the energy they needed for the hard physical work they did. The breakfast-lunch-dinner sequence is thought to be a middle-class tradition and for those people the midday meal was a lighter one, with the main meal coming in the evening. Upper classes are said to have used the term 'supper' rather than 'dinner' for the main evening meal, reserving 'dinner' for more formal occasions, though for a lot of others supper was a light snack that followed dinner, which was taken late in the evening.

On top of all that, the English tend to include 'morning tea' and 'evening tea' also in their daily list of meals because teatime brings not only tea but also snacks with it. So the daily line-up for some would be breakfast-morning tea-lunch-evening tea-dinner-supper. The only thing is, with all that food consumed, they'd better watch their cholesterol levels!

Image credit: Lee Brimelow

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