Tuesday, August 25, 2009

One Of Those Problems...


The Russian pianist Nikolai Demidenko is one of those artists who does not attempt something unless it can be done differently (Straits Times, Life! supplement, 19 June 2009).

It is natural to think that a singular verb should follow one of ..., but in reality the verb is always plural. Here’s how it works:

The underlined constituent in the quoted sentence is a noun phrase, with the structure one of X.

If I were to ask, ‘One of what?’, your answer would be: those artists who do not attempt something unless it can be done differently.

Now, it should be obvious that there’s a relative clause postmodifying artists, and since the relative pronoun who refers to artists, the verb that follows should be plural.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi,

May I know if the sentence below is correct then?

"One of the artists is my neighbour."

The Grammar Terrorist said...

Yes, that'e be correct.

The subject is the noun phrase [one of the artists], and the verb lies outside it.

It's singular because, if we were to replace the noun phrase with a pronoun, we'll have the sentence, 'She/He is my neighbour'.

Going back to the original example, the pronoun 'them' would replace only 'those artists who...', not the entire string (i.e. 'one of those artists who ...').

~pianist is weird~ said...

Hi Grammar Terrorist

With regards to the wrong statement, is the head noun Nikolai Demidenko? If so what is "artists" here? Is it the object?

P.S. I love his piano playing

The Grammar Terrorist said...

Hello,

The sentence is:

"The Russian pianist Nikolai Demidenko is one of those artists who does not attempt something unless it can be done differently."

We have Subject = "The Russian pianist" and "Nikolai Demidenko" (two noun phrases in apposition)

Verb = "is" (linking verb)

Subject Complement = "one of those artists who does not attempt something unless it can be done differently".

Note that the subject is made up of two noun phrases in apposition, i.e. noun phrases of equal grammatical status. Hence, one is not the premodifier or postmodifier of the other.

As for the subject complement, "artists" is the head of that noun phrase.

Yes

Anonymous said...

~pianist is weird~ started his post with "With regards to...". Should it be "With regard to" instead?

The Grammar Terrorist said...

Yes, you are right. It's especially common in Singapore, but not unknown elsewhere.

If you were to examine a corpus, you would find instances of 'with regards to' -- BUT in expressions such as 'with sincere regards to your mum'.