1. Credulous Skeptic
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    Credulous Skeptic Member

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    Check out this sentence

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Credulous Skeptic, Apr 23, 2009.

    "But the only thing he has shot in the two years since he took it up [hunting] are clay disks, which are ejected into the air at different angles to mimic the flight of the birds."

    (Tatiana Boncompagni, "Shooting for a New Generation," New York Times, 9 Jan. 2004, p.D2)


    Now, here is how one of the authors of my favorite grammar book corrected it:

    "But the only thing he has shot in the two years since he took it up [hunting] is clay disks, which are ejected into the air at different angles to mimic the flight of the birds."

    Can you believe that?
     
  2. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    His correction is right; "thing" is singular, which is what he is referring to, even though "thing" is (perhaps incorrectly) referring to the plural disks.
     
  3. xxtake_controlxx
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    xxtake_controlxx Member

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    Aaron is correct. Since the verb in this sentence refers to the word "thing" - since the general structure of the English language is Subject-Verb-Object - the verb needs to agree with that subject. The object refers to the clay disks, which have no bearing on the verb. There is a slight issue with the number agreement between the subject and the object since "thing" is singular and "clay disks" are plural, but the singular "thing" could also refer to the fact that it was only clay disks and not other things like birds or animals or something else. Since "clay disks" are one thing and birds are another, the use of the singular thing and the plural "clay disks" can still be acceptable.

    I think.
     
  4. Sound of Silence
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    Sound of Silence Member

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    You think right. :)
     
  5. g1ng3rsnap9ed
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    g1ng3rsnap9ed Contributing Member

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    Yeah, that's correct. Though I must admit that I was a little confused over the changes (or lack thereof) at first glance. :p
     
  6. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    Yeah that's one of those things that can be hard to wrap your head around. It's correct to use "is" there, rather than "are," since 'thing' is singular (and as someone pointed out, correct sentence structure is -subject-verb-object-).

    I used to get this rule confused all the time...I still do sometimes. If you're ever unsure, just look at the first noun in the sentence and if it's singular, use is...if it's plural, use are.

    ~Lynn
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    all true, in re the necessary agreement in number... but, if i had been correcting that original sentence, i'd have done it thusly:

    which is really the only correct way to word that... so, your favorite grammar book author flubbed the dub...
     
  8. xxtake_controlxx
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    xxtake_controlxx Member

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    I'm actually nearly 100% sure that thing can be singular and the sentence can still be grammatically correct. It goes back to what exactly the "thing" is. If the "thing" is acting as a collective noun for "clay disks" instead of "birds" or "rabbits," then "thing" actually has to be a singular noun. It's similar to "family." "Family" can mean more than one person, but does not mean more than one family; if you wanted to talk about two families, it would be plural. Use this rule on "thing." "Thing" means a group of the same object, meaning, maybe, one or more clay disks. "Things" means groups of more than one object.

    I'm pretty sure that was repetitive.

    But if you were to make "thing" plural, you imply that there is more than one "thing" shot, which can be ambiguous, but generally hints that you are going to list more than one distinct object.

    It's a bit of an ambiguous word for that reason, but the singular "thing" isn't necessarily wrong.

    Then again, although I'm nearly 100% sure that the singular "thing" isn't necessarily wrong, I'm not 100% sure. So, yeah. *shrugs*
     
  9. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I was going to offer the same correction.
     

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