Author Topic: About that subject-verb agreement question  (Read 22216 times)

Joe Carillo

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Is "plenty" singular or plural?
« Reply #15 on: June 22, 2009, 07:46:42 PM »

Here's a good one.    I encountered it in Fowler's "The King's English" (via your website).

...The sheil of Ravensnuik was, for the present at least, at his disposal; the foreman or 'grieve' at the Home Farm was anxious to be friendly. But even if he lost that place, Dan Weir knew that there was plenty of others...

Was plenty of others....?

I flew to my two dictionaries (one British, one American, both ancient) and lo!     Both had "plenty" as singular.

Before I take your advice and buy a modern dictionary, what does your Merriam-Webster say?

Here’s what my digital Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary says:

Main Entry:1plenty
Etymology:Middle English plente, from Anglo-French plent*, from Late Latin plenitat-, plenitas, from Latin, fullness, from plenus full — more at  FULL
Date:13th century

1 a : a full or more than adequate amount or supply  *had plenty of time to finish the job*  b : a large number or amount  *in plenty of trouble*
2 : the quality or state of being copious  : PLENTIFULNESS

It is, of course, silent on whether “plenty” is singular or plural, but I personally have always thought of it as singular in such common expressions as “There’s plenty of water in the ref” and “You think there’s still plenty of money in my bank account.” My understanding is that this is because it’s normally used to indicate the quantity of noncountable nouns such as “food,” “water,” “money”--even of plural things such as “raindrops” and “lollipops.” (The phrase “a lot” has the same singular sense of “plenty” in “that’s a lot of baloney,” although we can’t say “that’s plenty of baloney” because it doesn’t sound idiomatic to do so.)