Results 1 to 8 of 8
  1. #1
    Nordic Bill is offline Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Posts
    250
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Alas, another singular or plural question

    Looks like I must be making up for lost time here. I came across yet another curio in my collection that has me stumped.

    Would you fill in the blank with "was" or "were" here?:
    "Sleeping or appearing to be sleeping on the job ___________ grounds for dismissal."

    Although grounds is clearly the plural of ground, I am wondering if it might influence declensions since it seems to substitute the singular noun reason or cause.

    Thanks,
    Bill

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Posts
    1,554
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Alas, another singular or plural question

    "Grounds" is not the subject of the verb "to be", but the complement -- like an object, except that the complement is also the subject: the verb "to be" acts like an equals sign:

    Sleeping on the job = grounds for dismissal

    No matter what the complement is, though, the verb agrees with the subject. "Sleeping or appearing to be sleeping" is actually singular (logically, because we mean one or the other, not both), so "was" is correct here.

    All the same, "grounds" is plural -- "There were sufficient grounds for his dismissal". It does often refer to something singular, but we're talking grammar here, and grammar doesn't always match up with real life.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Posts
    12,971
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Alas, another singular or plural question

    Additionally, 'or . . .' serves to (re)define 'Sleeping':

    Sleeping (or appearing to be sleeping) on the job is grounds for dismissal.


    Quote Originally Posted by Bill
    Although grounds is clearly the plural of ground, . . . it seems to substitute the singular noun reason or cause.
    Actually, grounds, according to my Oxford, means, "good reasons".

  4. #4
    Nordic Bill is offline Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Posts
    250
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Alas, another singular or plural question

    Thanks to both of you for your replies. Yes, "compliments" can be a bit tricky at times, eg. "The Netherlands is/are a country in Europe". This may be a poor example, though, since we are not referring to several "lands" or "countries", but one.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Posts
    12,971
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Alas, another singular or plural question

    What about?

    The United States is/are . . .

  6. #6
    Nordic Bill is offline Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Posts
    250
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Alas, another singular or plural question

    That's another good one. Mind you, we are more conscious of the United States consisting of 50 of them (ie. 'states',which could inspire a plural declension) than the Netherlands consisting of several lands (islands?).
    I usually chicken out anyway and say "The US" and "Holland".
    Bill

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Posts
    1,554
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Alas, another singular or plural question

    "The US" means "The United States" anyway. And Holland is only a part of the Netherlands, so you shouldn't use it when you mean the whole country.

    But country names, even if they are plural in form, are always grammatically singular. The Netherlands is a country in Europe, and the United States is the world's most powerful country.

  8. #8
    Nordic Bill is offline Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Posts
    250
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Alas, another singular or plural question

    Phew - thanks for clearing that up for me.

    I always thought "The Netherlands" and "Holland" were interchangeable and that the '-lands' was merely (this was just a guess of course) based upon the fact that the Dutch shoreline consists of a chain of islands (hence 'lands').

Similar Threads

  1. Singular or plural? They lost their job(s).
    By peppy_man in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 11-Mar-2010, 16:09
  2. Plural Or Singular PART2
    By kahhong in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 05-Mar-2006, 11:58
  3. SINGULAR NOUN of NOUNS that PLURAL VERB
    By piggy386 in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 28-Aug-2005, 12:39
  4. verbs
    By eyescold_07 in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 08-Aug-2005, 06:32
  5. Is 'manners' plural or singular?
    By peppy_man in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 11-Jun-2005, 23:53

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •