1. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Irregular Plural Verb Argreement

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Gannon, Jul 17, 2008.

    The data is corrupt vs. the data are corrupt.

    The second example is the grammatically correct but the first seems the more appropriate.

    Are they both acceptable? Does it depend on context? In casual speech for example should one go with ever is the more natural, and in formal presentation should one perhaps plump for the grammatically correct?
     
  2. adamant
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    adamant Contributing Member Contributor

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    In the sentence, it appears you refer to all of the data simultaneously. I think it's the same rule as it would be for words such as everyone or sand. The term for such particles of speech has eluded my thoughts at the moment, but the closest I could find was 'collective noun'. I imagine the way to differentiate these data would be to call them 'sets of data', etc. Otherwise, you can just avoid the whole thing and use a synonym like information.

    With all of these grammar questions you're asking, I'm starting to wonder if this is a test. Or perhaps some evolution of the site's prior "Word of the Day" feature.
     
  3. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    The point with this question is that data is the plural of datum just as criteria is the plural of criterion. Sand is a mass noun as oppose to a count noun and does act like <everyone>, in that it suggests a singular concept but embraces a certain plurality. Data could be said to adhere to this same concept of singularity and hence it agrees singularily (as does the deixic reference <it> in this sentence). Data could also however be used as a plural of datum, which I would argue is the less common usage. In that case we ought to use the plural agreement <are>.

    Mass nouns do not usually have singular forms and so dat(a)(um) is further irregular. You suggest avoiding the whole situation by calling them 'sets of data', or by using a synonym like information. I think all things considered that would be very wise.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Data is used both as a plural noun and a singular one in current usage, so it's ok to use a singular verb form. Criteria, on the other hand, is only a plural noun at this time, so if you are speaking in the singular, you should be using criterion.
     
  5. adamant
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    adamant Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't believe I have ever heard (or seen) datum used. In fact, I'm only partly certain I know what would qualify as one. It would seem a more specific term would be used instead (e.g. measurement, coordinate, etc).
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Cogito is correct. Current convention has allowed data (plural) to become a collective singular. Your etymology is, of course, correct that the original singular is datum, but this word never really was accepted into common usage.
     
  7. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks for the clarification one and all.

    As for criteria:

    It would appear that this plural logically agrees, 'Which criteria are you using?', 'Where are the relevant criteria?' etc.
     
  8. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    I use a bit of a maverick standard for this issue. When writing dialog, I use whichever term the character would be likely to use. On the other hand, in my narrative I would always defer to the correct word...this serves my OCD needs at the same time as it distinguishes the different "voice" of the characters and the narrator. I know my convention is not necessarily "correct" but I don't care...it works for me! LOL
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    What about character driven narration?

    If you are narrating from an omniscient or limited omniscient POV, then it makes sense to use neutral language in the narration. But if your narration is from a character POV, then the narrative voice can be strengthened by using the thought patterns and word choices of the character. For an obvious example, read Huckleberry Finn. For something a bit more subtle, read Sue Grafton's alphabet mysteries. The narrative tone reflects Kinsey Millhone's cynicism and wit and emotions.
     
  10. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree completely. I was simply trying to distinguish between the omniscient perspective and that of the character. Whether it's dialog, or character driven narration, the result is the same for me...I would opt to write in the "voice" of the character.

    (Damn you're picky Cog! LOL)
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yup!... which is why i consider him an 'honorary' fellow virgo! [nit-picker extraordinaire]
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Darnit, you'r making me blush again.

    Actually, I'm more of a Taurus. Plenty stubborn, and no shortage of bull.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    no merde, miss marple!... as witness our little wrangle over in the 'dialogue dilemma'! :rolleyes:

    loveya, m
     
  14. DrJoe
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    DrJoe Member

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    This is what I tend to do. If I'm writing in the 3rd person, and am completely removed from the situation, I try to keep my narrative very grammatically correct. Dialog, on the other hand, I try to keep sounding natural by not worrying too much about common errors in speech.
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    as well one should, since none of us speak with perfect grammar... except for a few sad souls who do so only to show off, hoping to impress others... which of course it doesn't do at all, making them only sound pompously pretentious...

    even the greatest orators throughout history, those with the best grasp of language who are able to speak and write in perfect grammar, have been wise enough to bend the rules a bit, to get their ideas across to their listeners, none of whom would be grading them on their diction...
     

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