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Author Topic: A noun modified by “respective” should always be plural in form  (Read 5751 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: June 29, 2015, 12:34:29 AM »

Question e-mailed by tritorns (June 28, 2015):

I am a practicing lawyer.  I have read many court decisions that alternately used the word “MEMORANDUM” or “MEMORANDA” in the following sentence: “All the parties are ordered to submit their RESPECTIVE MEMORANDUM or MEMORANDA.” My question is which is more grammatical: “MEMORANDUM or MEMORANDA” ? I shall appreciate your help.  Thank you.

My reply to tritorns:

The grammatically correct usage is the plural “memoranda” for the sentence that you presented. Here’s why: The adjective “respective” means particular or separate, so when it modifies a noun, that noun must be comprised by two or more particular or separate units to dovetail with the plural sense of “respective” as modifier. It is therefore grammatically faulty for the singular “memorandum” to be preceded by “respective” as a modifier. In contrast, the plural form “memoranda” and its plural variant “memorandums” can both be preceded or modified by “respective.”
To be grammatically aboveboard, therefore, lawyers should write or say “All the parties are ordered to submit their respective memoranda” or “All the parties are ordered to submit their respective memorandums.” I’ll go as far as saying that if the many court decisions you’ve read alternately use the singular “memorandum” premodified by “respective” in those two sentences, the justices or judges who wrote them have been unwittingly writing grammatically wrong decisions or orders all these years.

« Last Edit: June 24, 2017, 11:34:40 AM by Joe Carillo » Logged

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