Singular or plural

Status
Not open for further replies.

Mr. X

Junior Member
Joined
Jun 24, 2010
Member Type
Student or Learner
Native Language
Nepali
Home Country
Pakistan
Current Location
India
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
 

Skrej

Key Member
Joined
May 11, 2015
Member Type
Native Language
English
Home Country
United States
Current Location
United States
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.
 

Mr. X

Junior Member
Joined
Jun 24, 2010
Member Type
Student or Learner
Native Language
Nepali
Home Country
Pakistan
Current Location
India
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 a moderator:

probus

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Jan 7, 2011
Member Type
Retired English Teacher
Native Language
English
Home Country
Canada
Current Location
Canada
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.
 

MikeNewYork

VIP Member
Joined
Nov 13, 2002
Member Type
Academic
Native Language
American English
Home Country
United States
Current Location
United States
Mr. X, I agree with your treating "flesh and blood" as a single unit.
 

Tdol

No Longer With Us (RIP)
Staff member
Joined
Nov 13, 2002
Native Language
British English
Home Country
UK
Current Location
Japan
When talking about families, I would use the singular. The plural might work in a sausage factory.
 

Kev44

Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2016
Member Type
Teacher (Other)
Native Language
English
Home Country
United States
Current Location
Netherlands
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.
 

Skrej

Key Member
Joined
May 11, 2015
Member Type
Native Language
English
Home Country
United States
Current Location
United States
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.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top