1. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    Singular vs. plural question.

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by E. C. Scrubb, Feb 17, 2013.

    I'm doing some beta work for a buddy, and came across this sentence.

    [HR][/HR]
    When I first looked at it, I saw "clothes" as a plural and corrected it to "clothes weren't the only thing..."

    Then, the more I read it, the more I starting thinking that in the sentence, he's treating "clothes" as a collective singular ("the only thing"). In that case, he was right to use the singular "wasn't."

    Now, I've gone back and forth so much on it, I can't really decide. If I had to come down on a side, I'd say it's plural, and to write it that way, then just leave "the only thing" as a singular - somewhat wrong grammar wise, but it "sounds right."

    Say that though, I'm still not sure. So I thought I'd ask the brilliance that is this forum: which one is it?
     
  2. Drusy
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    Drusy Senior Member

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    Question: is the professor new or the clothes? Either way, I would go with "weren't".
     
  3. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    lol. In the larger context, it's pretty easy to tell it's the professor.
     
  4. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I would say:

    The new professor's clothes weren't the only things different ...

    Note the plural of "things."
     
  5. Drusy
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    Drusy Senior Member

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    I don't have the larger context. :) I read this from the perspective of the clothes being different. If the professor is new then the students wouldn't have really had an opportunity to form an opinion on the clothes. Of course if the professor moved from a different area then the clothing could be considered different if by different we are using the context of strange as opposed to changed.
     
  6. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It's easy to tell it's the professor. If the professor had been around a while and only his clothes were new, the sentence would begin "The professor's new clothes ...", not "The new professor's clothes ..."
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd suggest either "clothes weren't" or "clothing wasn't."
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's clunky any way you cut it...

    changing 'clothes' to 'clothing' would solve the number confusion, but the whole thing needs rewording, as 'only thing different' is also awkward... i'd have to see the whole sentence and what comes before and after it, to propose a good altenative...
     
  9. jwideman
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    jwideman Senior Member

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    I seem to recall a teacher telling me that "clothes" are never collective singular, but that was a very long time ago. I'd write it plural, in any case.
     
  10. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    Yes, yes, and yes.

    I think a combination of these remarks are exactly where I'm going with it. Thanks.
     

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