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  1. #1
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    Default Subject-Verb Agreement

    Dear Teacher,

    The widely held strong preference for sweetness and aversion to bitter or sour flavors is innate.

    In the above sentence, the subject-verb agreement is correct?
    Someone says the two subjective words (preference and aversion) are determined by a single "the" so, the compound subject is considered one concept, singular and the verb shall be "is" not "are".
    In other words, if the subject is "the preference for sweetness and the aversion to bitter", the subject is plural.
    However, as the subject is "the preference for sweetness and aversion to bitter", it shall be considered singular.
    Is it correct?

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    Default Re: Subject-Verb Agreement

    Hi yun

    Preference is a singular noun:

    • The ... preference ... is ...


    Suggested rephrasing:

    • The widely-held strong preference for sweets, and aversion to bitter and sour flavors is innate.

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    Default Re: Subject-Verb Agreement

    The notional subject of the sentence is "the preference for sweetness and [the] aversion to bitterness...." [[ARE innate]]. That second determiner THE has been elided, but it has psychological reality for native speakers, just as it does in something like "wash up all the cups and [the] saucers." This kind of elision is quite common in English.

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    Default Re: Subject-Verb Agreement

    Quote Originally Posted by gabber View Post
    The notional subject of the sentence is "the preference for sweetness and [the] aversion to bitterness...." [[ARE innate]]. That second determiner THE has been elided, but it has psychological reality for native speakers, just as it does in something like "wash up all the cups and [the] saucers." This kind of elision is quite common in English.
    The preference is innate, not the sweets and (the) aversion. They are not innate. Sheesh ...

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    Default Re: Subject-Verb Agreement

    Thank you very much for your explanations though I am not sure if I understood correctly..

    It seems to me that soap and gabber have a different opinion on what is the subject of the quoted sentence.

    What I understand is;
    [Teacher Soap]
    The subject is “preference” only.
    It is like The widely-held strong preference for sweets and for aversion to bitter and sour flavors is innate.
    So, the verb is singular.

    [Teacher gabber]
    The subject is compound and it is both preference and aversion.
    So, the verb is plural.

    Do you I understand correctly?
    If so, it sounds more natural to me that the subject is compound because the writer seems to talk about two different contrastive concept, preference and aversion.

    Could you explain some more?
    Last edited by yun; 03-May-2009 at 14:58.

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    Default Re: Subject-Verb Agreement

    Oh, dear.
    'preference' means a greater liking for one alternative over another or others.

    Hence, the sentence meaning is actually:
    The...preference for sweetness is innate.
    or rephrased:
    The...preference for sweetness as opposed to bitter or sour flavors is innate.
    or
    The...preference for sweetness is innate, as is the aversion to bitter or sour flavors.

    The given sentence states the preference, and then also lumps the alternatives along side it. It's a poorly-constructed sentence.
    Last edited by David L.; 03-May-2009 at 15:26.

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    Default Re: Subject-Verb Agreement

    Thank you.
    It's getting more understandable.
    How about the following sentence?
    (Both) preference for sweetness and aversion to bitter flavors are innate.

    If are is correct in this sentence, the problem is, to the foreigners like me, the structure of the initially quoted sentence and the above look similar.
    That is, the two sentences both look like having a compound subject which takes a plural verb.

    I believe ESL teachers might be asked a similar question from students studying English as a foreign language.

    So, I will highly appreciate it if you can take a little more time to explain this.

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    Default Re: Subject-Verb Agreement

    We're talking about a preference - I like X more than Y.
    For the given sentence, it is like saying:
    My preference for X and my non-preference for Y ARE innate.
    Hang on!!!!!!
    If you have 'a preference', then you MUST have an alternative, a non-preference** Isn't it then odd and redundant to say that BOTH my preference and non-preference ARE two separate entities? The second only exists in contrast, because of the intrinsic meaning of the word, 'preference'.

    This is then compounded by the use of 'aversion'. This is not an antonym of 'preference'. With the tastes of 'sweet', 'sour', 'bitter' and 'salty', if we have an aversion to TWO of them, then one cannot regard the taste sensations remaining as 'preferences' - it's just that one hates the other two; so you don't have the luxury of 'a preference'; so how can 'the preference' be innate? How is it that BOTH ARE INNATE?

    Are we to 'read into' this sentence that the preference that is innate is actually 'sweet' over the unmentioned 'saltiness' AND NOT in relation to the two taste sensations for which we have 'an aversion'?

    TANGENTIAL THOUGHT: DO we have an innate aversion for 'sour'? Convince the eaters of No.32, 'sweet and sour pork', at your local Chinese takeaway! What madness possessed the Board of Management of some company, that they launched Angostura bitters on the market, and English beer manufacturers to label beer as Newcastle Bitter, and expect to sell?

    Forgive me for having my wits about me and their coming to bear when I read the written word. As I stated, it is a poorly constructed sentence, and poorly conceived statement of 'fact'.
    As Soup pointed out also, the whole sentence needs rethinking!!

    CORRECT GRAMMAR IS THE SERVANT OF MEANING, NOT ITS MASTER.
    The sentence presents itself as being a contrast between what is a preference, andwhat are aversions - I like this, I hate those. But logically, with the meanings of the two words, and only four choices, this cannot be.
    Last edited by David L.; 03-May-2009 at 17:46.

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    Default Re: Subject-Verb Agreement

    yun: only your third post, and what you are finding is that native English speakers look at a sentence, and some focus in a 'subject-verb agreement'; others first look at the intrinsic and implied meanings of the sentence, and how the grammar conveys or confuses that meaning.

    This leads to much disagreement; and frankly, the more I hear of what comes out of people's mouths, it seems that most people communicate in English on the premise 'as long as you get the general idea of what I'm saying'.

    I'm tempted to say, go with the flow: use the plural 'are' because so few will notice, and the rest won't really care!

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    Default Re: Subject-Verb Agreement

    Quote Originally Posted by yun View Post
    Dear Teacher,

    The widely held strong preference for sweetness and aversion to bitter or sour flavors is innate.

    In the above sentence, the subject-verb agreement is correct?
    Someone says the two subjective words (preference and aversion) are determined by a single "the" so, the compound subject is considered one concept, singular and the verb shall be "is" not "are".
    In other words, if the subject is "the preference for sweetness and the aversion to bitter", the subject is plural.
    However, as the subject is "the preference for sweetness and aversion to bitter", it shall be considered singular.
    Is it correct?
    I am not convinced that this is a bad sentence that needs rephrasing, in spite of the fact it is causing disagreement about the verb.
    The question of course is how many subjects there are, despite there being only one "the".

    Since one can have a strong preference for sweetness without actually disliking bitter and sour, I feel that there are two subjects, thus choosng "are".
    If one wants to argue that they are two sides of the same thing, one can choose "is", but again to me they are two different things.
    A "nonpreference" and an aversion are different.

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