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    #1

    all my maths was right... Huh?

    I'm frequently speaking to British people over the net, in written English. Now, this guy (a doctor of medicine, by the way) tells me this:

    "...and after checking all my maths was right." Where he complained about how he'd made a spelling error in an essay where his math was the centre of his attention, apparently.

    Of course, I replied back to him, with a question mark at the "maths was" part. He says it's grammatically correct, but can't explain why.

    Why on earth is this correct? Or is it wrong? It looks weird to me. Could almost swear it'd be "...all my maths were right." Any takes on this?

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    #2

    Re: all my maths was right... Huh?

    It's fine- maths, like news, is singular in BrE. The maths was OK.

  1. Ouisch's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: all my maths was right... Huh?

    It's sort of a peculiarity of British English. They do the same thing with some other words, such as "band"; they say "the band are currently on tour," whereas in the US we'd say "the band is currently on tour."

  2. Casiopea's Avatar

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    #4

    Re: all my maths was right... Huh?

    Additionally,

    Mathematics, a collective noun, originally denoted the mathematical sciences, including geometry, astronomy, optics. It was shortened to math in American English (from 1890) and maths in British English (from 1911).

    Source: http://www.etymonline.com

    Note that, if a collective nouns is viewed as a whole, as a unit, then it can be replaced by the pronoun "it" and takes a singular verb. If a collective noun is viewed as made up of its individual parts or members, then it can be replaced by the pronoun "they" and takes a plural verb. Like this,

    EX: They, the family, are coming over for dinner. <American English >
    EX: It, the family, is coming over for dinner. <American English >

    Read more here about how North American speakers and British speakers use collective nouns.


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    #5

    Re: all my maths was right... Huh?

    Thank you, people. This explains why I thought "the maths is ok" sounded ok, while "all the maths" appeared strange. Isn't he in the "They, the family" area when he says "ALL the maths"? Or?

    But I see I've got a few things to learn about English still, and the differences between British and American are not making it easier!!!

  3. Casiopea's Avatar

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    #6

    Re: all my maths was right... Huh?

    To my understanding, maths was originally viewed as a collection of individual areas/subject but that it is no longer viewed that way today; so, "maths is/was", right? It's like tdol said, "news" - it has an "s" but that doesn't make it plural. "news" doesn't take a plural verb.


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    #7

    Re: all my maths was right... Huh?

    You people...

    So, ALL the news is... Every single one of them is, and all those news we're talking about here, toghether they... is ... Not working for me, I gotta tell ya!

  4. Casiopea's Avatar

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    #8

    Re: all my maths was right... Huh?

    Quote Originally Posted by Deen
    You people...

    So, ALL the news is... Every single one of them is, and all those news we're talking about here, toghether they... is ... Not working for me, I gotta tell ya!
    All of the news / All of it
    Every single one of them is
    All those news ungrammatical "news" is singular
    They is ungrammatical "They" is plural, "is", singular.

    What seems to be the problem? Tell us ...

    The noun mathmatics comes from Latin mathmatica, a plural noun, but when it was borrowed into English -s replaced -a, giving mathematics. As time went by, the noun was shortened to maths (British English). Today, its final -s is no longer productive. It doesn't carry a plural meaning. It's fused, or has become part of the noun "maths", a singular noun. Now, mathmatics used to be viewed as a collective noun, but it no longer is today. So you won't find speakers saying, maths are ... -unless, that is, they actually view "maths" as a collective noun, as representing more than one area of math.

    "news" is similar in its history. It doesn't come from the adjective "new" + a plural -s marker. It's a whole word in itself; you can't remove the -s. Do so and the word changes in meaning. "news" has an -s, but that -s is not a plural marker. It's just a letter that happens to look like a plural marker.
    Last edited by Casiopea; 03-May-2006 at 13:26.

  5. rewboss's Avatar

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    #9

    Re: all my maths was right... Huh?

    "News" used to be plural a long time ago -- the word means "new things". A few generations ago, some people insisted that "news" should take a plural verb, but even in those days they were viewed as pedantic and ridiculous. The story is told of one newspaper editor who wired a journalist the question "Are there any news?" and received the reply, "No, not one damn single new".

    Now, news is quite definitely singular. We view news in the same way that we view air or water: it's a sort of homogenous mass that doesn't come in chunks that you can count.

    You can count news stories, pieces of news and news items, though. A newscaster might introduce a bulletin with the phrase "Here is the news"; at the end of the bulletin, the newscaster might say, "And before we go, here are a few late items of news." (If you're British and remember The Two Ronnies, this will be very familiar to you.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Ouisch
    It's sort of a peculiarity of British English. They do the same thing with some other words, such as "band"; they say "the band are currently on tour,"
    Partly, it depends on whether you view the band as a single entity or a collection of individuals. The band is on tour; the band have been arguing amongst themselves.

  6. rewboss's Avatar

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    #10

    Re: all my maths was right... Huh?

    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea
    "news" is similar in its history. It doesn't come from the adjective "new" + a plural -s marker.
    I just contradicted you, so I thought I'd better look it up in case I made a mistake.

    "News" comes from Middle English "newes", which is the plural form of the adjective "newe" (Middle English conjugated adjectives as many European languages do today, even though modern English doesn't). "Newes" can be translated "novelties".

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