Today the Dragon Wins

"Today the Dragon Wins" offers information from Fantasy Author and Professional Editor Sandy Lender. You'll also find dragons, wizards, sorcerers, and other fantasy elements necessary for a fabulous story, if you know where to look...

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Sandy Lender is the editor of an international trade publication and the author of the fantasy novels Choices Meant for Gods and Choices Meant for Kings, available from ArcheBooks Publishing, and the series-supporting chapbook, What Choices We Made.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Grammar Guide
Using the Right Singularity with Group Nouns

Yeah, it’s a strange title. It’s the Stargate SG-1 fan bursting out of me. Last month, we had a Grammar Guide that discussed noun and verb agreement. We saved the topic of group nouns for a later date because the regular discussion was long enough without adding this skein of yarn to the loom.

First things first. Because I grew up in America and this blog is written, posted, managed, etc., in America, we’ll use American English rules on this one. In Britain, group nouns are treated a bit differently. I’m not sayin’ there’s anything wrong with that. I adore certain English rock stars and find it absolutely adorable to listen to them when they fling about their own grammatical style.

Let’s get it on.

Group nouns are those nouns that look like a plural word because they imply a “group” of something, but they are singular. For instance!

Duran Duran is currently in the studio.

"Duran Duran" is the group noun. It is singular and it takes a singular verb. Now, if we were members of the group (how fabulous would that be), we would be British and we’d say Duran Duran are in the studio, implying the noun is plural. (It actually makes my skin crawl to say that without the fabulous accent to back it up.)

To use a plural verb with a group noun, you have to break out the members of the group.

Two members of Duran Duran are named Taylor, but they are not brothers.
In my novel
Choices Meant for Gods, several hunters from the Ungol tribe go to fetch dinner.

In the first sentence, the subject is actually “Two members” and the group noun “Duran Duran” has become the object of the preposition “of”. It is no longer the subject, and no longer has to agree with the verb. The subject “Two members” is plural and takes the plural verb “are”. In the second sentence, the same thing happens. “Several hunters” is the subject and “tribe” is the object of the preposition “from”. So the item that needs to agree with the verb “go” is “several hunters”. In the example, both are plural, so we have agreement. If we were merely saying “The tribe goes to fetch dinner,” then the “tribe” is the subject and it is a singular group. The verb would change to the singular “goes” to agree with it.

To view the first discussion about noun/verb agreement, click on the January archives at left and find the Grammar Guide titled Noun-Verb Agreement from January 8.

(Sandy Lender has been an editor in the magazine publishing industry for fourteen years.)
“Some days, you just want the dragon to win.”

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