Re: Help with sentence (plural verb)

Subject: Re: Help with sentence (plural verb)
From: Guy Haas <ghaas -at- NETSCAPE -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 30 Oct 1996 10:58:24 -0700

At 12:44 PM 10/30/96 -0500, Elsa Kapitan-White wrote:
>Sue Heim asks , which is correct:

>>...more may be required if a high number of records *is* retrieved
>>...more may be required if a high number of records *are* retrieved

>I second Thom's choice that the first is correct. The second version
>appears correct because the verb is separated from the subject in the
>clause by the intervening plural "records." The quantity of a "high
>number" has a singular context.


I would like to agree with Tom and Elsa, but there is this nagging
thought:

We are taught in tech writing not so say "a lot".
In this example, if we DID say "a lot", it would read

...more may be required if a lot of records *are* retrieved

throwing the focus onto the records.

Now, now is "a lot of" different from "a number of"?

What APPEARS to be a prepositional phrase modifying "number"
is not really. What we have here is "a high number of"
modifying "records." It's not (lapsing into diagramming)

__number____|____is____\__retrieved__
\ \
\ \of
\ \__records___
\
\__high__

It's more like

__records____|___are___\___retrieved__
\ (of)
\...number...
\ \___high___
\__a

"A high number of" is an adjective, equivalent to "many".

Bottom line, why even SAY "a high number of"?

--g


Guy K. Haas, Software Exegete ghaas -at- netscape -dot- com
Netscape Communications 415-937-3773
501 Middlefield My opinions are mine,
Mountain View, CA 94043 Netscape's are their own.


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