Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 19

    • Join Date: Mar 2009
    • Posts: 38
    #1

    single OR plural

    Dear Teacher,

    I have heard on Bloomberg TV the following question :

    "What needs to be done"

    Why did she use needs and not need.

    please explain

    Thanks!!!

    Rinot


    • Join Date: Jul 2006
    • Posts: 2,886
    #2

    Re: single OR plural

    When 'what' acts as the subject in a sentence, and we do not know what it refers to, we regard it as singular.


    • Join Date: Nov 2007
    • Posts: 5,409
    #3

    Re: single OR plural

    ...compared to
    "What we need is a commitment." where 'we' is the subject, and plural.


    • Join Date: Jul 2006
    • Posts: 2,886
    #4

    Re: single OR plural

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    ...compared to
    "What we need is a commitment." where 'we' is the subject, and plural.
    I beg to differ. The whole subordinate nominal clause is the subject in the WH cleft sentence and the verb has to agree with its singular value in number. 'we' is the subject in the subordinate clause, but not in the sentence, and, as the grammar of the sentence shows clearly, the verb 'is' does not have to agree with it.


    • Join Date: Nov 2007
    • Posts: 5,409
    #5

    Re: single OR plural

    The whole subordinate nominal clause is the subject in the WH cleft sentence and the verb has to agree with its singular value in number. 'we' is the subject in the subordinate clause, but not in the sentence, and, as the grammar of the sentence shows clearly, the verb 'is' does not have to agree with it.

    Take a deep breath as you disappear up your own highfaluting backside...and have another think on your way.
    Last edited by David L.; 14-Jul-2009 at 12:27.


    • Join Date: Jul 2006
    • Posts: 2,886
    #6

    Re: single OR plural

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    The whole subordinate nominal clause is the subject in the WH cleft sentence and the verb has to agree with its singular value in number. 'we' is the subject in the subordinate clause, but not in the sentence, and, as the grammar of the sentence shows clearly, the verb 'is' does not have to agree with it.

    Take a deep breath as you disappear up your own highfaluting backside...and have another think on your way.
    That deep breath I have sighed seeing your comments many times, David.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • Laos

    • Join Date: Nov 2002
    • Posts: 57,934
    #7

    Re: single OR plural

    IMO 'We' is the subject of 'need', but not of 'is':

    What he needs is a commitment.

    What we need are commitments.

    etc

    Frailer souls might be taken aback by such disappearances, so could we express our desires a little less forcefully?


    • Join Date: Jul 2006
    • Posts: 2,886
    #8

    Re: single OR plural

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    IMO 'We' is the subject of 'need', but not of 'is':

    What he needs is a commitment.

    What we need are commitments.

    etc
    Thanks, Tdol. I am glad at least we agree on the basics of English grammar.


    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    Frailer souls might be taken aback by such disappearances, so could we express our desires a little less forcefully?
    I will translate it for you David: you would benefit from a charm school, but only after a syntax school.
    Last edited by svartnik; 14-Jul-2009 at 14:04.

  1. Soup's Avatar
    VIP Member
    English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Canada
      • Current Location:
      • China

    • Join Date: Sep 2007
    • Posts: 5,882
    #9

    Re: single OR plural

    Quote Originally Posted by svartnik View Post
    I beg to differ. The whole subordinate nominal clause is the subject in the WH cleft sentence and the verb has to agree with its singular value in number. 'we' is the subject in the subordinate clause, but not in the sentence, and, as the grammar of the sentence shows clearly, the verb 'is' does not have to agree with it.
    With all due respect, svartnik, I understand your explanation--it's spot on--yet I don't quite catch why it is that you are providing it. David's post was fine. Allow me to interpret what you missed.

    In both [1] and [2], the subject does indeed agree in number with its verb:
    [1] What needs
    Subject: what
    Verb: needs

    ... compared to

    [2] What we need
    Subject: we
    verb: need
    The purpose of example [2] is to show an intervening subject;i.e., we occurs between What and need, therefore we not what agrees with the first verb. That's all David was after. Subject-verb agreement. (In no way could his post be interpreted as implying that "we" is the subject of the sentence.) His post was fine. So, I hope you can see why I was a bit confused by your response.


    • Join Date: Jul 2006
    • Posts: 2,886
    #10

    Re: single OR plural

    Quote Originally Posted by Soup View Post
    With all due respect, svartnik, I understand your explanation--it's spot on--
    My explanation is not spot on. I will explain that later.

    David wrote:
    What we need is a commitment. "we" is the subject.
    It is incorrect information, per se. 'we' is not the subject and I do not see what 'what' has to do as the object of the verb 'need' with 'we' in the sub clause.

    What we need is money-.
    What we need are banknotes.

    In WH clefts, the subject and the predicate nominal swap places; thus, the NP in the predicate becomes the NP the copula has to agree in number (true subject).

    Banknotes are what we need. --> What we need are...

Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. neither...nor - singular or plural?
    By patorresz in forum Frequently Asked Questions
    Replies: 11
    Last Post: 06-Feb-2010, 02:35
  2. any + countable noun = single or plural noun?
    By hangle124 in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 08-Apr-2009, 20:55
  3. kind of+ plural or single
    By franklin xia in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 13-Aug-2008, 11:09
  4. should use plural or single
    By Unregistered in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 10
    Last Post: 18-Jul-2008, 13:30
  5. Single or plural verb?
    By Abusaad in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 22-Mar-2005, 22:39

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

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