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    • Join Date: Dec 2005
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    #1

    Plurar or singular?

    It does not matter in what order the letters in a word are, the only important thing is that the first an last letter be in the right place.

    In the above sentence "the first and last letter," should the word "letter" be plural? Could you give the grammatical reason for either yes or not?

    Thanks in advance.
    J. Fesselet


    • Join Date: Nov 2005
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    #2

    Re: Plurar or singular?

    Quote Originally Posted by jennypierre
    It does not matter in what order the letters in a word are, the only important thing is that the first and last letter be in the right place.
    And why is it be, instead of are, in the right place?
    Is it because the clause is a conditional clause? ( It does not matter in what order the letters in a word are, be that the first and last letter in the right place.)
    Last edited by MadHorse; 01-Dec-2005 at 09:12.

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    #3

    Re: Plurar or singular?

    It's a present subjunctive. I'm a British English speaker and wouldn't use this structure, which is found in American English.


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    #4

    Re: Plurar or singular?

    Thanks for your prompt answer. To answer what has been responded so far...

    1. This is something that was sent to me that way and the "be" was there. That is why I am looking for an answer.

    2. Yes, this comes form a friend in the USA. Is that the correct way the american way? and I still would like to know the grammatical reason for it.

    Thanks once more.


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    #5

    Re: Plurar or singular?

    Hi tdol,

    Did you mean you'd use a structure like:
    "It would not matter in what order the letters in a word are, if first and last letters were in the right place"?

    And how about this:
    "It doesn't matter in what order the letters in a word are, as long as first and last letters are in the right place"?

    It's has the same meaning, but is not a present subjunctive, is it? Please confirm my thoughts on this. Thanks.

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    #6

    Re: Plurar or singular?

    The present subjunctive is very rarely used in BrE, so I would not use forms like 'I insist that he be dismissed'.
    The two sentences you use are both fine, but they are different- the first is talking about an imaginary arrangement of letters, while the second is talking about a real arrangement. The first sentence could be past subjunctive, though we can only see this in things like 'if I were', while the second is not present subjunctive. In conditional and similar sentences, the present subjunctive isn't used.

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    #7

    Re: Plurar or singular?

    Hello, Jenny.
    Quote Originally Posted by jennypierre
    . . . the only important thing is that the first an last letter be in the right place.
    The writer is using the phrase "the first and last letter" for "the first letter and the last letter." To the writer, the underlined parts are redundant (they can be picked up elsewhere in the phrase), so they're omitted:

    EX: the first letter and the last letter => the first and last letter

    Note, the phrase "the first and last letter" could also refer to a single letter,

    EX: a is the first and last letter of the word "a".

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