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Grammar

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2nd Feb 2006 | 14:01

In early drafts of this announcement I had written "there is a significant number of unofficial Hermes webmail login forms", which a couple of my colleagues corrected to "there are", so I checked. I had thought that my version was pedantic but correct, but I may have got that impression from an over-simplified version of the rule. It turns out (according to the Economist style guide and other sources) that the rule is "the number is" but "a number are". Subtle.

The best guideline is to rephrase away from controversial matters of style, which is what I did :-)

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Comments {6}

Keith Lard

from: keithlard
date: 2nd Feb 2006 14:17 (UTC)

The mnemonic I use is to replace the phrase 'a number' with a number.

For example, 'there is a significant number of forms'

becomes

'there is 122 forms'

which clearly isn't right.

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Liadnan

from: liadnan
date: 2nd Feb 2006 14:18 (UTC)

Hah. Have just emerged victorious from an argument about formal legal drafting regarding whether "each" is singular or plural.

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Keith Lard

from: keithlard
date: 2nd Feb 2006 16:10 (UTC)

Again, the question is how many people 'each' refers to. If it is one person, then it is singular.

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cvrt

from: covertmusic
date: 2nd Feb 2006 17:49 (UTC)

I'm trying to work out where I'd use "each" in a plural sense; all the examples I can think of (okay, in the last thirty seconds) are "each <one> from <set>", essentially...

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Keith Lard

from: keithlard
date: 2nd Feb 2006 18:00 (UTC)

I can think of contrived examples such as 'Each five people'...

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The King of Wrong

from: king_of_wrong
date: 5th Feb 2006 01:10 (UTC)

Surely that's "every five people" or "each group of five people"?

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