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  1. #1
    Ronjohn is offline Newbie
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    Default Singular and plural uses of collective nouns

    Hi,

    I was wondering if you could explain when you use singular and plural of a veerb before "collections of things".

    1. There are/is a number of problems to be faced.
    2. There are/is a lot of problems.
    3. There are/is a million.
    4. Society are/is plagued with problems.

    If you are kind enugh to answer this can you also explain why I was corrected for not having the apostrophe where it is now placed in the sentence below?

    "He received 3 years' imprisonment".

    I assumed an apostrophe did not signify the word "of".

    Ronjohn

  2. #2
    Anglika is offline No Longer With Us
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    Default Re: Singular and plural uses of collective nouns

    Quote Originally Posted by Ronjohn View Post
    Hi,

    I was wondering if you could explain when you use singular and plural of a veerb before "collections of things".

    1. There are/is a number of problems to be faced. "a number" = singular
    2. There are/is a lot of problems. Difficult one this - I would instinctively say there are a lot of problems/there are many problems.
    3. There are/is a million. "a million" = singular; "a million xxxx" = plural
    4. Society are/is plagued with problems. "Society" as concept - singular

    If you are kind enugh to answer this can you also explain why I was corrected for not having the apostrophe where it is now placed in the sentence below?

    "He received 3 years' imprisonment".

    I assumed an apostrophe did not signify the word "of".

    Ronjohn
    An apostrophe has two actions - it can indicate missing text: "it's" = it is; or it can indicate a possessive and represents a notional "of". "Three years' imprisonment" comes into the second.

  3. #3
    Ronjohn is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Singular and plural uses of collective nouns

    Thanks for such a speedy reply.

    Additionally, I would like to query the "possessiveness" of the sentence. I think this is my real issue with the apostrophe being used.

    I understand that where a clear possession is shown "The defendant's imprisonment" the apostrophe is essential. However, in the sentence in question, I cannot see how the "years" possess the "imprisonment"?

    If you take the new phrase above you cannot place "of" into it i.e. "the defendant of imprisonment", yet you can with "three years of imprisonment". The latter sentence then does away with the apostrophe and would appear, at first blush to be what the apostrophe was there to denote.

    My thinking is that because the imprisonment is the subject of the sentence and is being explained or modified by the three years it does not come into the same category as something showing possessiveness and therefore doesn't need an apostrophe?

    I hope you can swathe through my hypothesis, tear it to shreds and put me straight!!! This all started with a newspaper article and has caused no end of discussions. Yesterday I saw an advert for "3 years' interest free credit" and still can't help feeling it is wrong to put an apostrophe there.

    Please help,
    Ronjohn

  4. #4
    Anglika is offline No Longer With Us
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    Default Re: Singular and plural uses of collective nouns

    Quote Originally Posted by Ronjohn View Post
    Thanks for such a speedy reply.

    Additionally, I would like to query the "possessiveness" of the sentence. I think this is my real issue with the apostrophe being used.

    I understand that where a clear possession is shown "The defendant's imprisonment" the apostrophe is essential. However, in the sentence in question, I cannot see how the "years" possess the "imprisonment"? "imprisonment of three years" > three years' imprisonment

    If you take the new phrase above you cannot place "of" into it i.e. "the defendant of imprisonment", yet you can with "three years of imprisonment". The latter sentence then does away with the apostrophe and would appear, at first blush to be what the apostrophe was there to denote.
    But you can say "the imprisonment of the defendant" >> The defendant's imprisonment.

    My thinking is that because the imprisonment is the subject of the sentence and is being explained or modified by the three years it does not come into the same category as something showing possessiveness and therefore doesn't need an apostrophe?

    I hope you can swathe through my hypothesis, tear it to shreds and put me straight!!! This all started with a newspaper article and has caused no end of discussions. Yesterday I saw an advert for "3 years' interest free credit" and still can't help feeling it is wrong to put an apostrophe there. The same applies: interest-free credit of three years >> three years' interest-free credit

    Please help,
    Ronjohn

    I wouldn't dream of tearing anyone's hypotheses to shreds

  5. #5
    Ronjohn is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Singular and plural uses of collective nouns

    Thanks Angelika,

    I think this is one that "offends my eye" but will have to be adopted.

    Merry Christmas

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