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    #1

    More than one house was/were

    More than one house was gutted in the fire.

    Is 'was' correct because the verb has to agree with the singular subject 'one house' rather than the quantifier, 'more'?

    Thank you!

  1. Matthew Wai's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: More than one house was/were

    http://www.usingenglish.com/forum/th...han-one-person
    Some members there were trying to explain why 'more than one (subject)' is singular.
    I am not a teacher.

  2. Raymott's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: More than one house was/were

    Quote Originally Posted by Matthew Wai View Post
    Some members there were trying to explain why 'more than one (subject)' is singular.
    I don't think it was explained at all though. I'd say tedmc was right.

  3. Matthew Wai's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: More than one house was/were

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    I'd say tedmc was right.
    Do you mean the following?
    Quote Originally Posted by tedmc View Post
    This is arbitrary, defies logic and is an exception to the rule.
    I am not a teacher.

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    #5

    Re: More than one house was/were

    Ted seems to me to be right. There is nothing logical about 'More than one' being followed by a singular noun which takes a singular verb. 'More than one person' is logically at least two people.

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    #6

    Re: More than one house was/were

    Yes, and his other comments. Mike's explanation doesn't work for me. It seems to be a mere assertion that that is what we say. "More than one person" is obviously two or more persons, and one would expect that to take a plural verb. It doesn't. The reason hasn't been explained. I suspect it's because 'person' is singular and this is an exception based on what sounds best.

    Crosspost

  6. Matthew Wai's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: More than one house was/were

    As I said in the old thread there, 'more than one is at least two' is a mathematical problem rather than a grammatical one.
    Can that be an explanation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    Mike's explanation doesn't work for me.
    I wish he would appear and further explain.
    I am not a teacher.

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    #8

    Re: More than one house was/were

    No, it's not a mathematical problem. Number is an integral component of grammar.

    Be careful what you wish for!

  8. Matthew Wai's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: More than one house was/were

    'More than' is a modifier of 'one house/person', and the verb should agree with the noun rather than its modifier.
    Can that be an explanation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    Be careful what you wish for!
    What's wrong with my wish?
    I am not a teacher.

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    #10

    Re: More than one house was/were

    I also agree that Tedmc is correct in that it defies logic. Logically, it should be 'were', not 'was'. The verb should agree with the entire subject noun phrase.

    I've discussed this particular language point a few times before. My suspicion is that this is an example of the powerful effect of collocation on our native ears. We hear ...one person were... and our ears simply can't accept it -- even though it is 'grammatically correct' -- because the sound pattern of those words just seems so unfamiliar.

    In speech, patterns of grammar and logic play second fiddle to patterns of rhythm and cadence.

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