Monday, August 04, 2008

Subject–Verb Agreement

‘But losses in motor insurance, which accounts for about a third of the market here ...’ (Today, 1 August 2008).

Make it losses ... which account for, since the relative pronoun which has the plural head noun losses as its antecedent.

[Edit: My mistake, owing to a misreading – the antecedent of which is motor insurance, so the singular verb accounts is correct.]


Kikuri-hime said...

WOW! I am so amazed by ur blog. Seriously! U really know ur sausages! Keep it up. if u don't mind, I would like to link ur blog in mine... thanx in advanced or advance (which is the correct one? hehehehe!)

Vinodh said...

I'm not sure if this is an error in subject-verb agreement.

As a matter of context and sense, the writer obviously intended the modifier "which accounts for about a third of the market here" to modify the prepositional phrase "in motor insurance" rather than the noun "losses".

The Grammar Terrorist said...

Thanks, kikuri-hime and thanks, Vinodh.

Vinodh -- you're absolutely right, I'm the blur one as I misread it! Thanks for pointing it out to me.

The Grammar Terrorist said...

Thanks again, kikuri-hime, for the honour! (And yes, it's 'thanks in advance'!)

Anonymous said...

I disagree with Vinodh and your "edit" remarks.

First of all, the antecedent of "which" is the whole noun phrase "losses in motor insurance" and NOT "motor insurance". However, the reason why it is singular is because the ST writer has assumed "losses" as singular given that we cannot count losses directly just as we cannot count profits directly. Hence, the singular form, "accounts" is used.

The Grammar Terrorist said...

Hi, Anonymous

I don't quite agree the antecedent of "which" is the entire noun phrase.

It's clear that the writer is referring to "motor insurance" accounting for about a third of the insurance market.

It doesn't make sense to say the "losses" account for a third of the market (which would be the case if "which" had "losses" as antecedent) -- the article isn't about insurance losses.

Furthermore, "losses" is grammatically plural, even if it does not seem logical to count individual losses. Same with accounts -- e.g. "The company's accounts ARE in a mess". These are invariant plurals, never used in the singular.