Sunday, August 12, 2007

Just One Of Those Things …
Quiz time. Which is correct?

(1) Hafizah is one of those rare people who love grammar.
(2) Hafizah is one of those rare people who loves grammar.

It may be something of a surprise that (1) is technically more correct. Most speakers, however, would prefer (2), presumably because one appears to be singular. But the way to look at it is this:

Hafizah is one of X.
X = those rare people who love grammar.

Now it is immediately obvious that the relative clause who love grammar postmodifies people — hence the plural verb, love. The scope of the plural people applies only within the embedded noun phrase, as indicated by X, and does not extend to the larger sentence. Now consider this:

One of the books you ordered has arrived.

This is correct, because the head of this noun phrase is the singular one.

5 comments:

Michirure said...

I'm confused about this one..

So the sentence about Hafizah loving grammar.. (1) is acceptable too?

Michirure said...

I meant (2).. Haha..

The Grammar Terrorist said...

(1) Hafizah is one of those rare people who love grammar.
(2) Hafizah is one of those rare people who loves grammar.

Yes, most people would in fact say (2), even if it is technically wrong. Say (1) and people think YOU are wrong!

Michirure said...

So.. Do I go with the crowd?

The Grammar Terrorist said...

It's one of those dilemmas -- you know what the correct version is, but you worry that if you say it, the other person is going to think you are wrong (or weird).

It's just like the object form 'whom': I hardly ever say 'Whom were you speaking to?' although it is the correct form.

I guess the balance to strike is this: say what others would say, but understand why it's not technically correct.