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  1. #1
    Nerrad Guest

    Unsure how to explain this

    Students asked me about the following question:

    How long do people take for lunch?

    Why is it not:

    How long does people take for lunch?

    Cheers,
    Nerrad

  2. #2
    susiedqq is offline Key Member
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    Re: Unsure how to explain this

    "People" is a collective noun, so it uses the plural verb.

    Change the question to a statement to see it more clearly.

    (They do) eat lunch.

    Singular is (He does) eat lunch.

  3. #3
    Stilo is offline Member
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    Re: Unsure how to explain this


    The correct form is " How long do people take for lunch".
    You are talking about a group therefore in everyday English it is taken as a singular identity. I will stand corrected if I am wrong,but "How long does people take for lunch" is not gramatically correct.

  4. #4
    BobK's Avatar
    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Re: Unsure how to explain this

    I think the area of doubt here is caused by the fact that as well as the active and passive voices, there is a middle voice alternative:

    Active: 'People take an hour for lunch.'
    Passive: 'An hour is taken for lunch.'
    Middle: 'Lunch takes an hour.'

    So in your question, people do the taking; but sometimes (when there's a middle voice construction) "lunch" behaves like the subject (which suggests - wrongly - that the verb should be in the singular). This sort of confusion is the price we pay for the flexibility of a verb like "take".

    b
    Last edited by BobK; 27-Feb-2008 at 17:41. Reason: Fix typo

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