Author Topic: Noun-verb agreement  (Read 3343 times)

Miss Mae

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Noun-verb agreement
« on: March 07, 2012, 02:20:46 PM »
Zuid Holland is the ‘little region’ that the Dutch, Surinamese, Turkish, Moroccan, and Aruban behold.
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Is the construction correct, Sir? A collective noun calls for a singular verb (especially if those involved n the unit are in unison). But the nouns it is referring to are more than one. How should I go about this then?

Joe Carillo

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Re: Noun-verb agreement
« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2012, 03:55:13 PM »
Yes, the construction of this sentence that you presented is correct:

“Zuid Holland is the ‘little region’ that the Dutch, Surinamese, Turkish, Moroccan, and Aruban behold.”

The construction above is actually a complex sentence, with “Zuid Holland is the ‘little region’” as the main clause and the relative clause “that the Dutch, Surinamese, Turkish, Moroccan, and Aruban behold” as the subordinate or dependent clause. It’s true, as you pointed out, that “little region” is a collective noun, but it really has no syntactical relation to the plural-form verb “behold” in the subordinate clause. That verb is operative only in the subordinate clause, and it is in the present-tense plural form because the doer of its action isn’t “Zuid Holland” or “little region” but the group of plural nouns “Dutch, Surinamese, Turkish, Moroccan, and Aruban.” There is therefore no subject-verb disagreement in that sentence at all.

Two alternative constructions of that sentence are these:

(1)  “Zuid Holland is the ‘little region’ that is beheld by the Dutch, Surinamese, Turkish, Moroccan, and Aruban.”
(2) “Zuid Holland is the ‘little region’ beheld by the Dutch, Surinamese, Turkish, Moroccan, and Aruban behold.”

In these two constructions, no question about subject-verb agreement arises because the verb “beheld” is in the past participle form, unlike in the original sentence construction where a possible subject-verb disagreement might be perceived—wrongly, of course—because “behold” is in the present-tense.
 
By the way, for those who are not very knowledgeable in world geography, Zuid Holland is South Holland (“zuid” is the Dutch word for “south”), a province situated on the North Sea in the western part of the Netherlands. Its provincial capital is The Hague and it is one of the most densely populated and industrialized areas in the world.

Miss Mae

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Re: Noun-verb agreement
« Reply #2 on: March 10, 2012, 08:02:32 PM »
Uh, oh. I thought wrongly.

Because the reason why I got confused with this construction is the presence of the five collective nouns ('the Dutch, Surinamese, Turkish, Moroccan, and Aruban behold').