Plural Verbs [Was Re: name of country?]
jlindgren at WORLDNET.ATT.NET
Tue Jan 23 12:52:24 PST 2001
There is quite a large literature on agreement of verbs with collective nouns.
The basic rule is called "notational agreement." Whether a noun is plural or
singular reflects its meaning. Although style experts disagree about particular
usages, there is wide agreement on the general principle. For some the same word
can become plural or singular depending on context.
Some would say both:
"The committee disagree among themselves what to do next." AND
"The committee agrees with the Mayor on what to do next."
Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of American Usage has a nice essay (and literature
review) on agreement.
By the way, the copies I have of the Declaration of Independence both refer to
"the United States of America" twice. Are you making something of the
capitalization rather than the words used? At least until the phrase becomes an
idea in itself, without "the" the implication would be that one is talking about
some of the United States, not all of them. One would expect that the phrase
would shift from plural to singular as the concept became thought of as a single
As to the use of "the," as in "the freedom of speech," "the" is the correct
article for this construction until "freedom of speech" becomes a single concept
(as now). Then the article "the" can be dropped.
Examples of idiomatic English:
"I am writing about freedom of speech."
"I am writing about the freedom of saying what I think."
Michael Froomkin - U.Miami School of Law wrote:
> I know that in England today it's common to use a plural verb for a
> single corporate body, e.g. "IBM have done it again" both in spoken and
> written British English.
> I have no idea whether this usage is formally correct, nor whether it
> existed either in the colonies or in King George's realm, but it points up
> yet another problem with this sort of work -- words do change their
> meanings and usages over time, and not only in the way one can easily
> identify in historical dictionaries.
> When I taught Con Law I, I always started with the Articles of
> Confederation; while not an adherent of the Beard Thesis, it always seemed
> to me that the radically centralizing nature of the Constitution couldn't
> be properly understood without understanding the problem it was designed
> to solve.
> Although some of my students mumbled that if they wanted to study ancient
> history they would have gone to grad school, I found it enriched the
> course, especially the commerce clause line of cases.
> On Mon, 22 Jan 2001, Bill Funk wrote:
> > "Parry, John" wrote:
> > > The declaration of independence uses the term "United States of America,"
> > > and Article I of the articles of confederation provides that the name for
> > > the confederation of 13 states is the "The United States of America."
> > I have found it interesting, and so have my students, that at the time of the
> > founding the title "The United States of America" took a plural verb, as in
> > "The United States of America have created a new government." Today, of
> > course, the title is singular, as in "The United States of America is the
> > greatest nation in the world." When we talk of context, the context of
> > thinking of the nation as a plural is significantly different from thinking
> > of it as a singular. I wonder when the title morphed from one to the other.
> > Bill Funk
> > Lewis & Clark Law School
> Please visit http://www.icannwatch.org
> A. Michael Froomkin | Professor of Law | froomkin at law.tm
> U. Miami School of Law, P.O. Box 248087, Coral Gables, FL 33124 USA
> +1 (305) 284-4285 | +1 (305) 284-6506 (fax) | http://www.law.tm
> -->It's cool here.<--
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