1. LotW
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    LotW New Member

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    Singular and Plural

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by LotW, Jun 7, 2012.

    "The runners, each of them reputed to be one of the fastest in the world, moved to their starting blocks."

    Is this correct? I feel like "one" is wrong in this context and I should use a collective term like "some".
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The sentence is correct in number at all points. The main sentence is consistently plural, and the parenthetical clause is all singular in number, agreeing with each. I would leave out of them as unnecessary
     
  3. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's fine. "Runners" matches "their" and "each" matches "one", just as they should. "Some" would be clearly wrong. The first alternative that occurred to me, "each of them reputed to be amongst the fastest in the world", is unfortunately ambiguous, so I'd say leave it alone.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i agree with cog... it's ok grammar-wise, but 'of them' should come out to make it a better sentence...
     
  5. P R Crawford
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    P R Crawford Member

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    ALERT: Obsessive scrutiny coming your way.... Please skip if sensitive to such....

    Do you mean that each runner is reputed to be the fastest runner in the world?

    If so, "The runners, each reputed to be the world's fastest, moved to their starting blocks" would work better.

    If not, I'm afraid it sounds rather tortured as it stands, regardless of it being grammatically correct - so your instincts are accurate: something doesn't quite scan right.

    So let's take it apart and torture it some more.

    The modifying clause, cast as a complete sentence, is "Each runner is reputed to be one of the fastest runners in the world". In my view, this would be better as "Each runner is reputed to be among the fastest runners in the world" (or "amongst" if you're British). (And Digitig, I'm not sure how I see that that's ambiguous...?)

    The issue, I believe, is in the hierarchy of grouping within the sentence. We have "each runner" - the "each" implying there exists a group of runners to which "each runner" belongs.

    This group comprised of "each runner" is in turn a subset of a greater group, "the fastest runners". Now, we could have an individual runner who is one of the fastest runners in the world ("Tyson Gay is one of the fastest runners in the world"). But in my view, when we take an implied group and then suddenly speak of each of them as being separate from that group - as if each of them is one alone - we lose the natural hierarchy of the grouping, and something feels not quite right....

    The correct way to deal with this would be to use a structure that didn't along the way break out each runner from their implied group and place them as an individual against all the world's runners. The proper word here, then, would be "among". A small group can be one group among a larger group. So,

    "The runners, each reputed to be among the world's fastest, moved to their starting blocks."

    HTH
     
  6. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Presumably not. Presumably what was meant was what was written: each is one of the fastest runners in the world.
    Scans fine to others here -- I don't think it's remotely tortured.
    Because each of the runners is "among" the other runners on the starting block. It reads as if each runner is subject to a rumour that all the others on the starting blocks are the fastest in the world. That's the first meaning I get when I read that sentence; I have to pause before I realise that "among" is meant figuratively, not literally. I find that sort of "clunk" when reading quite unpleasant.
    I don't see the slightest hint of them being separate from the implied group. They're just all members of another group. It's the very nature of groups that they are made up of individual members -- no loss of hierarchy in that at all. The sentence doesn't say that the group is a subset of some other group, it says that the individuals are members of another group. Sure, if you can do your logic then you can work out that one implies the other, but you don't have to and the sentence doesn't tell you because it doesn't matter.
    That's no more correct than the original, and as I pointed out above leads to a clash of metaphorical and literal meanings.
     
  7. P R Crawford
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    P R Crawford Member

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    Sometimes sense is ultimately just in the ear of the beholder. :)
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes, but if the eye of the beholder had been functioning well, the presence of 'one of' in that sentence would have been noticed, n'est-ce pas?... ;)
     
  9. P R Crawford
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    P R Crawford Member

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    It's the very use of "one" which the OP found problematical - with reason, I believe - and so I attempted to show the logic of why his ear was bothered by that.

    As it stands, to me, it's a poorly written sentence. That's all...
     

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