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    #1

    Singular or plural

    Hi,

    I came across this nice saying: It is not flesh and blood but the heart that makes us fathers and sons.

    Suppose I split this into two and say: Flesh and blood does not make us fathers and sons. The heart does.

    Is that okay because I am using flesh and blood as one unit? Or must I use them as two words and change it to 'flesh and blood do not make us fathers and sons.'?

    So my question is, in such contexts is singular usage preferred or plural?

    Thanks,
    Mr. X

  1. Skrej's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Singular or plural

    If the two subjects are combined to be considered one collective object, then the singular is used, as you stated.

    I prefer 'do' in this case, but I can see a strong argument for using 'does', so I wouldn't consider 'does' wrong.

    I think in this case, there's some room for different opinions as to whether you're considering 'flesh' and 'blood' as one unit, or two separate criteria, and to choose your verb accordingly.
    Wear short sleeves! Support your right to bare arms!

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    #3

    Re: Singular or plural

    Thanks so much for the explanation, Skrej. Normally, I too would prefer plural. But when talking about human relationships, 'flesh and blood' is often used together as if thy were one unit. That's why I figured singular would be more appropriate. But like you said, it is about context.
    Last edited by Rover_KE; 12-Jan-2016 at 09:53. Reason: Deleting unnecessary quote.

  2. probus's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Singular or plural

    I never would have dreamt that a native speaker would consider "flesh and blood" to be two things. It is clearly an idiom for kin, family, relatives, relations, etc.

  3. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Singular or plural

    Mr. X, I agree with your treating "flesh and blood" as a single unit.

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    #6

    Re: Singular or plural

    When talking about families, I would use the singular. The plural might work in a sausage factory.

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    #7

    Re: Singular or plural

    Re: Singular or plural

    The singular-plural issue is an ongoing discussion. I brought it up yesterday while talking to a friend of mine who is a GED RLA (Literacy) instructor in WPB, FL, and we both think Tdol, MikeNewYork, and probus are right. The two subjects are to be considered 1 single unit here, so using the singular is appropriate. I like Tdol's "sausage factory" remark. That explains it well.

  4. Skrej's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: Singular or plural

    Quote Originally Posted by probus View Post
    I never would have dreamt that a native speaker would consider "flesh and blood" to be two things. It is clearly an idiom for kin, family, relatives, relations, etc.
    It's not so obviously an idiom for kinship here, since flesh and blood are being compared against the heart. It's just as logical to assume it's speaking of three separate body constituents.
    Wear short sleeves! Support your right to bare arms!

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