Saturday, November 11, 2006


I don't know, maybe I'm treading 'pon thin ice here, or maybe I learned a different English than did the rest of the country, but I was taught that the subject and the predicate in a sentence must match. In the instance of which I now write, if the subject is singular, then the predicate must also be singular.

Ask your real estate salesman if they are a realtor.

No. Ask your real estate agent if he is a realtor.

Call your friend and ask if they can come to the party.

No. Call your friend and ask if she can come to the party.

The use of the singular subject with the plural predicate is so widespread that I'm often tempted to make the same mistake myself, but I try to avoid it (almost always successfully).

Every time I hear a newsperson say something like, "The police have few clues as to the identity of the killer, but assure us they will be apprehended soon," I always mentally ask, "how many killers were there?"

Miss Steen, where are you when we need you?

Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

1 comment:

Ol' BC said...

And I thought it was just me. I do change from first to third person from time to time. Can you shed any light on the I was vs. I were (usually following a preposition)?