Grammar question for Carol or Trumpt...

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
When dealing with a measurement as the subject of a sentence or phrase, do you treat it as a singular or plural?



For instance:



"Two thousand miles separate my love and me."

or

"Two thousand miles separates my love and me."



I'm leaning toward the latter.



My question is raised because Franz Ferdinand's lyrics say, "Forty feet remain" when I think it should be "Forty feet remains". IMO that measurement should be treated as a unit, and thus a singular.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 49
    powerdocpowerdoc Posts: 8,122member
    I suck in english grammar, but if you refer at the thousands miles as a distance and not units, then the first answer is the good one.
  • Reply 2 of 49
    crazychestercrazychester Posts: 1,339member
    I'm pretty sure Powerdoc is correct - it is "separate".



    What I do know for sure is "my love and me" is wrong. It should be "my love and I".
  • Reply 3 of 49
    staphbabystaphbaby Posts: 353member
    I think it's ambiguous: you could treat it as a collective expression for the distance (and therefore singular), or as a plural? so you should pick the one which works best for you (and your metre).



    Personally, I'd go for the first, but only because it sounds extremely weird to heard a nominally plural noun before a singular conjugation of the verb.
  • Reply 4 of 49
    Quote:

    Originally posted by crazychester

    What I do know for sure is "my love and me" is wrong. It should be "my love and I".



    I wouldn't be too sure:



    http://www.askoxford.com/asktheexper...grammar/meandi



    As this link says, people sometimes think that because "Someone and me" is sometimes incorrect, that it is always wrong, and the rule of thumb is to take the other person out of the sentence and see whether you would use 'me' or 'I'.



    That kind of falls apart here because it doesn't make sens to say "Something separates me." but I think you'll agree it's better than "Something separates I".



    -----



    As for the original question, I think the answer depends on whether you are talking about each of the individual units or the collection as a whole, which can sometimes be a matter of emphasis.



    e.g. "20 seconds has elapsed" is referring to the 20 seconds as a lump, but Robinson Crusoe may write that "20 days have passed" emphasising that each day has in turn passed even though he could say "20 days has passed" to express something subtly different.



    You might also want to check it's not a UK/US english thing, as I know that in the UK it's common to refer to corporations or other groups as plural e.g. "Apple is releasing" vs. "Apple are releasing".
  • Reply 5 of 49
    staphbabystaphbaby Posts: 353member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by crazychester

    I'm pretty sure Powerdoc is correct - it is "separate".



    What I do know for sure is "my love and me" is wrong. It should be "my love and I".




    Hang on: if "two thousand feet" is the subject and "my love" and "me" are the objects, then surely "me" is correct?



    Edit: in agonising over how not to sound patronising, SLAF beat me. Bugger.
  • Reply 6 of 49
    trumptmantrumptman Posts: 16,447member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by tonton

    When dealing with a measurement as the subject of a sentence or phrase, do you treat it as a singular or plural?



    For instance:



    "Two thousand miles separate my love and me."

    or

    "Two thousand miles separates my love and me."



    I'm leaning toward the latter.



    My question is raised because Franz Ferdinand's lyrics say, "Forty feet remain" when I think it should be "Forty feet remains". IMO that measurement should be treated as a unit, and thus a singular.




    I'm not an English major, I just play one on television.



    The general rule I learned (there are always exceptions, usually having to do with pronouns) is that if the subject has an "s" on the end, the verb cannot. The reason people confuse it with singular and plural is because plural nouns often have an "s" on the end.



    So in this instance since the miles has an s, seperate as the verb cannot.



    Also stupider is correct about taking the other person out in determining whether me or I is correct.



    I'm about 99% sure on this but Carol as the true English teacher might either be able to explain the rule better or know the evil 1% exception that always seems to exist in English usage.



    Nick
  • Reply 7 of 49
    pfflampfflam Posts: 5,053member
    I think its best to say:



    'There are two thousand miles seperating me from my love" . . . forget the poet's intention! he doesn't really know what he wants to say anyway!!



    rewrite the whole lot-of it!



    . . or would that be: take the whole lot and rewrite them -?



    . . or would that be: take the whole lot and rewrite it?



    or are they both a travesty?

    or travesties?
  • Reply 8 of 49
    shetlineshetline Posts: 4,695member
    "Plural" is singular.
  • Reply 9 of 49
    kanekane Posts: 392member
    War is peace.
  • Reply 10 of 49
    staphbabystaphbaby Posts: 353member
    Ignorance is Strength!
  • Reply 11 of 49
    fangornfangorn Posts: 323member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by tonton

    When dealing with a measurement as the subject of a sentence or phrase, do you treat it as a singular or plural?



    For instance:



    "Two thousand miles separate my love and me."

    or

    "Two thousand miles separates my love and me."



    I'm leaning toward the latter.



    My question is raised because Franz Ferdinand's lyrics say, "Forty feet remain" when I think it should be "Forty feet remains". IMO that measurement should be treated as a unit, and thus a singular.




    "Miles" is plural--you are dealing with more than one; thus the verb should be plural also, "separate."



    "Feet" is the plural form of foot (pesky irregular verbs ), thus takes a plural verb "remain."



    Trumpetman is exactly right about plural verbs not have an "s" although there are plenty of irregular nouns and verbs out there to throw a wrench in the subject.



    If, and only if, you constructed a sentence in which "miles" was a single object would it be considered singular and take a singular verb (separates), but I for the life of me can't think of a way to write it.



    Oh, I don't teach English. I edit college textbooks.
  • Reply 12 of 49
    staphbabystaphbaby Posts: 353member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by tonton

    Thanks all for your help. I'm eagerly waiting for Carol's professional response (no pressure).



    Doesn't the Times Guide to Style (or whatever the accurate title is) address all of these things? Anyone have a copy?




    If you can wait until tomorrow I can have a squiz at Fowler's if you like.
  • Reply 13 of 49
    brussellbrussell Posts: 9,812member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by crazychester

    What I do know for sure is "my love and me" is wrong. It should be "my love and I".



    Doesn't it depend on whether those people are the subject or object of the sentence? "My love and me went out" would be wrong, because "me went out" is wrong. But "they went out with my love and me" would be right, because "they went out with me" is right.
  • Reply 14 of 49
    pfflampfflam Posts: 5,053member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Fangorn

    If, and only if, you constructed a sentence in which "miles" was a single object would it be considered singular and take a singular verb (separates), but I for the life of me can't think of a way to write it.





    How's this: "separated by miles from my love . . . a listened to Miles play his drooling Trumpt . . pet"

    ?
  • Reply 15 of 49
    midwintermidwinter Posts: 10,060member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by tonton

    "Two thousand miles separate my love and me."



    This is correct, since there are two thousand miles operating as the subject of the sentence. That's plural, and thus can be replaced with the pronoun "they," and so requires a plural verb.



    Quote:

    or

    "Two thousand miles separates my love and me."



    This is incorrect because you cannot replace "two thousand miles" with "it." The reason it sounds correct to you is that the implication is that the subject is "the distance of two thousand miles," which would be singular ("distance").

    [/quote]



    Quote:

    My question is raised because Franz Ferdinand's lyrics say, "Forty feet remain" when I think it should be "Forty feet remains". IMO that measurement should be treated as a unit, and thus a singular. [/B]



    "Feet" is plural. The sentence reads, essentially, "Forty feet (they) remain." The sentence would have to read "one foot remains" to take a singular verb.



    Cheers

    Scott



    PS

    This is my professional position on the matter, and dadgummit, I'm standing by it.
  • Reply 16 of 49
    brussellbrussell Posts: 9,812member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by shetline

    "Plural" is singular.



    And 'data' is plural. So if 'data' is plural, and 'plural' is singular, then is 'data' singular? Or should that be "are 'data' singular?"
  • Reply 17 of 49
    crazychestercrazychester Posts: 1,339member
    Oh bugger. Still doesn't sound right but I must be wrong because too many people have corrected me. So I'm copping to it. Just don't tell my mother, OK?



    Hell staphbaby don't labour (or labor) over the patronising (or patronizing) thing. It's all the rage don'tchaknow?



    This is obviously god paying me back because I never meant to post at all. If anybody sees me post ANYWHERE will you please remind me not to. Thanks.



    The ploughman homeward plods his weary way.

    His weary way the ploughman homeward plods.

    Plods the ploughman his weary way homeward.

    Homeward plods the ploughman his weary way.

    The ploughman his weary way homeward plods.

    Weary his way the ploughman plods homeward.



    Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera........
  • Reply 18 of 49
    carol acarol a Posts: 1,043member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by tonton

    When dealing with a measurement as the subject of a sentence or phrase, do you treat it as a singular or plural?



    For instance:



    "Two thousand miles separate my love and me."

    or

    "Two thousand miles separates my love and me."



    I'm leaning toward the latter.



    My question is raised because Franz Ferdinand's lyrics say, "Forty feet remain" when I think it should be "Forty feet remains". IMO that measurement should be treated as a unit, and thus a singular.




    Damnation!!! I thought I was out of school for the summer. hahaha



    It was fun reading the whole thread. You guys are great! If only I could convince my students that anyone actually *CARES* about this stuff.



    Oh geez.



    It should be:



    "Two thousand miles separate my love and me."



    Plural subject, plural verb. Sounds awkward (in this case) to consider the subject as a collective.



    "me" - because it is a direct object of the verb 'separate' and MUST be in the objective case. heh.



    The way to determine the case of pronouns (as was mentioned above) is to make the statement using each pronoun separately, and then put them back 'together' in the sentence.



    For example:



    I bake cookies. She bakes cookies. She and I bake cookies.



    Tom baked her a cake. Tom baked me a cake. Tom baked her and me a cake.



    In this instance, "her" and "me" are indirect objects of the verb and MUST be in the objective case.



    (I know it doesn't *sound* correct. That's because people seldom hear such statements spoken correctly!!!!! )



    More:



    We like tacos. Americans like tacos. We Americans like tacos.



    They gave us freedom. They gave Americans freedom. They gave us Americans freedom.



    He gave gifts to Sally. He gave gifts to me. He gave gifts to Sally and me.



    ("Sally" and "me" = objects of the prepostion "to" and MUST be in the objective case!!!!!)



    Wrt the "forty feet" issue: well, the thing is, correct grammar is pretty much tossed out (by some people, even highly-knowledgeable ones!) when it comes to song lyrics, though 'not' wrt actual poetry. Personally, I think grappling with awkward phrasing is a losing proposition. Much better to find different words altogether, imo, words that flow; NOT words that distract the reader/listener into contemplating points of English grammar. hahaha.



    It would be preferable to see the "forty feet" thing in the context of preceding and subsequent lyrics. However, lacking that, I'll put the statement into a prose sentence:

    "Forty feet remains between our canoe and the edge of the waterfall." In this case, 'forty feet' is a unit, therefore singular.



    Just my opinion, however.



    Let me take this opportunity to mention that since I started posting on international messageboards, I have been using British punctuation 99% of the time.....in case anyone wondered about that.



    Gosh. Now you guys have me missing teaching, and I haven't even had 24 hours of summer yet!!!



  • Reply 19 of 49
    addaboxaddabox Posts: 12,660member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by crazychester

    Oh bugger. Still doesn't sound right but I must be wrong because too many people have corrected me. So I'm copping to it. Just don't tell my mother, OK?



    Hell staphbaby don't labour (or labor) over the patronising (or patronizing) thing. It's all the rage don'tchaknow?



    This is obviously god paying me back because I never meant to post at all. If anybody sees me post ANYWHERE will you please remind me not to. Thanks.



    The ploughman homeward plods his weary way.

    His weary way the ploughman homeward plods.

    Plods the ploughman his weary way homeward.

    Homeward plods the ploughman his weary way.

    The ploughman his weary way homeward plods.

    Weary his way the ploughman plods homeward.



    Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera........




    I believe the phrase you're looking for is:



    "Plods way ploughman his the weary homeward."



    That, or "Manward his way homeploughs weary the plods" from the 1956 scifi classic "Inversion of the Snatcherbodies".
  • Reply 20 of 49
    brussellbrussell Posts: 9,812member
    OK midwinter and Carol, here's some for ya. Grammatical, or ungrammatical?



    The old man the ships.

    Fat people eat accumulates.

    The horse raced past the barn fell.

    The girl told the story cried.

    The man who hunts ducks out on weekends.
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