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

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