1. hippocampus
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    hippocampus Active Member

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    Do I use allow or allows?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by hippocampus, Mar 12, 2013.

    If I'm saying "XYZ is one of those jobs that allow you to do ABC," do I say "allow" or "allows"?

    I know XYZ is singular. And "one of" refers to the singular. But "jobs" is plural.

    Help! I'm having a brain cramp.
     
  2. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    "One" is the operative noun/subject here, and it is singular. So "allows" would be proper.
     
  3. hippocampus
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    hippocampus Active Member

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    Thank you!
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Take the clause out (in your head) and you can see which word the verb aplies to.

    One [of those jobs] that allows. The verb for the noun, XYZ, is 'is' and it's not 'allows': XYZ is; one allows.
     
  5. hippocampus
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    hippocampus Active Member

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    That's what I usually do, but in this case I couldn't figure out what to remove... I got so wrapped up in it that nothing sounded right!
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry, i beg to differ... as an editor, i would allow 'allow' there, since it refers to 'those jobs' not 'one'...
     
  7. hippocampus
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    hippocampus Active Member

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    Maybe that's why I couldn't decide which was right. Ah well... I turned it in with 'allows' - hopefully whoever reads it will agree!
     
  8. Jpell
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    Jpell New Member

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    ooo a big ol' bad editor over here. :eek:
     
  9. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    For what it's worth, Microsoft Word's grammar checker agrees. I tried "Writing is one of those jobs that allow you to work at home." No problem. But "Writing is one of those jobs that allows you to work at home" makes the grammar checker complain.

    Interestingly, if I just type "One of those jobs allows you to work at home" there's no problem. But "One of those jobs allow you to work at home" makes the grammar checker complain. Adding "Writing is" and "that" to the sentence reverses the problem.
     
  10. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Mammamia, you shatter my faith in you. ;)

    You're wrong, and it's a simple thing, so I suspect you just aren't thinking it through.

    As for Microsoft's 'editor', minstrel, it's a program glitch in the grammar check software and it causes a number of similar errors with plural problems. The software looks for the last noun preceding the verb and can't distinguish a prepositional clause that's in between.

    Try this example and it should become clear:

    He, of all people, wants it done right.

    He wants. The clause, 'of all people', is not the subject of the verb. Just because the prepositional clause seems to be the subject of the verb does not make it so.
     
  11. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    It is confusing, that's why I take the prepositional clause out to see it more clearly.

    I'll be shocked if Mammamaia's right here. (Actually, I'm also shocked she's wrong.)
     
  12. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I would say "allows" is the correct choice as well since it's referring to "one" and not the prepositional phrase.
     
  13. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    So, to find out, here's a link to Mammamaia's Owl.edu source
    The example just below deals with specific pronouns but has an example that fits this one:
    One of those jobs is one, not two or more of those jobs.


    [Hugs Mammamaia]
     
  14. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I can see how you're parsing this differently and maybe there's something to be debated here since I know you know your stuff.

    You are reading, "those that allow", as the clause. So the parse becomes, one 'of those that allow'

    I am reading it as "one of those" "that allows"

    I'm trying to see if it has to be one way or the other. It seems to me the sentence needs to change. I'll ponder it over a beer and see if I can loosen up any concrete in my brain.
     
  15. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    OK, if I said, "This is one of those that do not need work," you can hear the cringe in your brain more clearly.

    "Those that do not need work" is a legitimate phrase. However, once you add the noun, 'one', and the preposition, 'of', you can see that 'one' now becomes the subject of the verb, 'to do'.

    [GC regains her confidence, enjoys the beer and awaits a rebuttal]
     
  16. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Okay, I just looked this up in The New Fowler's Modern English Usage. According to that source (listed under Agreement section 9), both are allowed. Normally, the verb would be plural (according to Fowler), but "exceptions occur when the writer or speaker presumably regards one as governing the verb in the subordinate clause". Fowler provides examples of published sentences by writers such as Iris Murdoch, Kingsley Amis, Peter Carey, and others, some using the singular form of the verb and some using the plural.

    It seems there's no absolute rule; it's a matter of the writer's preference.

    GingerCoffee, the examples you list from Owl.edu do not apply. They do not employ the "... one of those [who][that] ..." construction.
     
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  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Sorry, but she's right. The way the sentence is composed, the modifier phrase is a characteristic of the collection of jobs, not only the indicated job.

    Read it again. XYZ is one of those [jobs that allow you to do ABC].

    If XYZ differs from the other jobs in that group because it allows you to do ABC, allows would be more defensible. But absent any enclosing context that might give "those jobs" something in common OTHER than allowing to do ABC, the latter semantics are improbable.

    So if your full example were:
    In this case, "those companies" are defined by the preceding sentence, not by the patent ownership clause.

    Do you see the distinction?
    The grammar analyzer is far more complex than that. The problem is that natural languages, particularly English, are too complex for analysis by any computer that does not know the full contextual meaning. It's not dumb software. It's rather sophisticated software. But the problem is beyond the current state of computer technology. (computational analysis of languages, machine and human, is one of my professional concentrations)
     
  18. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Link please?


    http://www.scribd.com/doc/76580335/The-New-Fowler-s-Modern-English-Usage

    The page number would help.
     
  19. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I should have known better than to weigh in on a grammar question.
     
  20. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Sorry, I can't provide a link - I referred to my print copy, and the link you provided charges money to download. I don't really want to pay for the download when I already have the book in my hand.

    In my copy, it's in a section labeled "Agreement", subsection 9, on page 36. There's another section labeled "One", subsection 4, on page 550, that refers back to Agreement 9, and includes several more examples from other prominent writers.
     
  21. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    No, Liz, at first glance I thought as you did. But I took a closer look after Maia posted, and she was right, for the reasons I explained. It's a close matter though, change the context slightly and the decision goes the other way.

    This is why software can't get it right. Software can only apply a hierarchy of rules, but the rules alone can't deal with a context-sensitive grammar.
     
  22. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Does it matter? The problem surfaces when preceding nouns are not the subject of the verb. It's just something I've noticed recurs regularly.

    That is consistent with what I said. I appreciate you've elaborated.
     
  23. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I looked around a bit and found that when you have something like "one of the [plural noun] who/that," you usually go with the plural form of the verb because it modifies the plural verb. However, you need to look at the logical meaning of the sentence to make sure it makes sense.

    minstrel, can you post a few of the examples that you found in Fowler's? I'd be interested in seeing how different authors handle this issue.
     
  24. GingerCoffee
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    Never mind, I found my own.

    So we are back to, you can parse it as a subordinate clause, (one of )(those jobs that allow) with the verb and noun being part of the clause and together they act as a single adjective.

    Or you can parse it as, (one (of those jobs) that allows).

    [The world returns to normal.]
     
  25. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Okay, I checked two more references (both print copies from my bookshelf; sorry, but I can't provide links). Both agree with mammamaia.

    The first I checked is Wilson Follet's Modern American Usage: A Guide. Follett is adamant that the plural verb form is correct, and rails at great length against using the singular. I don't usually like using Follett, because he isn't as comprehensive as some other guides, and he doesn't give sources for his example sentences (unforgivable!).

    So I checked Garner's Modern American Usage (Third Edition). Garner also says the singular is incorrect, but isn't as shrill about it. One of the examples he gives is from Henry Bradley: "This is one of those spurious truisms that are not intelligently believed by anyone." Garner offers a suggestion to help understand the rule - rephrase the sentence like this: "Of those spurious truisms that are not intelligently believed by anyone, this is one."

    Both Follett and Garner focus exclusively on American English, while Fowler treats mostly British English. That may explain why Fowler allows both and Follett and Garner do not.
     

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