Sunday, December 22, 2013

Grammar question. How say you?

There is a myriad of reasons why ...

Or should it be, there are a myriad of reasons why ...

Consider also:

There are a score of reasons why ...
There is a score of reasons why ...



There is a dozen reasons why ...
There are a dozen reasons why ...



There are a handful of reasons why ...
There is a handful of reasons why ...

Is the verb after There supposed to agree with the quantity-noun (myriad, score, dozen, handful) or the word (noun) reasons? And does the of, where it appears, make any difference?

My own ear leans toward(s) is when there is an of and the other way, when not. Which seems inconsistent after the most fleeting of thought(s).



tia

4 comments:

TC said...

"of reasons" is a prepositional phrase, of course, so that takes the fact that "reasons" is plural out of the equation. In the second example where there is no preposition, my ear says the verb should agree with the plural "reasons".

In the examples where there is a preposition, I think it's the usual collective noun issue. It depends on whether you're talking about them as individuals or collectively as a unit. Are you thinking of the "reasons" individually, or are you thinking of all the reasons as a unit composed of reasons. You choice of the verb tells us what you had in mind when making the statement.

TC said...

From Wikipedia fwiw:

In British English, it is generally accepted that collective nouns can take either singular or plural verb forms depending on the context and the metonymic shift that it implies. For example, "the team is in the dressing room" (formal agreement) refers to the team as an ensemble, whilst "the team are fighting among themselves" (notional agreement) refers to the team as individuals. This is also British English practice with names of countries and cities in sports contexts; for example, "Germany have won the competition.", "Madrid have lost three consecutive matches.", etc. In American English, collective nouns almost invariably take singular verb forms (formal agreement). In cases where a metonymic shift would be otherwise revealed nearby, the whole sentence may be recast to avoid the metonymy. (For example, "The team are fighting among themselves" may become "the team members are fighting among themselves" or simply "The team is fighting.") See American and British English differences - Formal and notional agreement.
A good example of such a metonymic shift in the singular-to-plural direction (which, generally speaking, only occurs in British English) is the following sentence: "The team have finished the project." In that sentence, the underlying thought is of the individual members of the team working together to finish the project. Their accomplishment is collective, and the emphasis is not on their individual identities, yet they are at the same time still discrete individuals; the word choice "team have" manages to convey both their collective and discrete identities simultaneously. A good example of such a metonymic shift in the plural-to-singular direction is the following sentence: "Mathematics is my favorite academic subject." The word "mathematics" may have originally been plural in concept, referring to mathematic endeavors, but metonymic shift—that is, the shift in concept from "the endeavors" to "the whole set of endeavors"—produced the usage of "mathematics" as a singular entity taking singular verb forms. (A true mass-noun sense of "mathematics" followed naturally.)

Dan Weston said...

"There is/are a myriad of reasons..."

Both are false. I challenge you to list 10000 independent reasons, a number likely several orders of magnitude off (maybe it's just a kiliad or hectad, or triad?)

Not that it matters: if you do a principal component analysis of your model features (for almost any reasonably random theory), and then order the eigenreasons in decreasing order of eigenimportance, they form a power law, and only the first one or two add any real justification. The rest are some combination of noise and perjury.

Brendan Keefe said...

Thanks for the many thoughts, TC. I've been chewing on them, but lately, have been too burned out from my day (night) ((both)) job to be able to respond in the way it deserves.

__________

There are no words sufficient to express how much I miss having an office down the hall from you, Dan.

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