Wordsmith.org: the magic of words

Wordsmith Talk

About Us | What's New | Search | Site Map | Contact Us  

Previous Thread
Next Thread
Print Thread
Page 1 of 2 1 2
There is / are a total of twenty insects... #211636
07/07/13 02:46 PM
07/07/13 02:46 PM
Joined: Sep 2012
Posts: 41
L
Lionel Koh Offline OP
newbie
Lionel Koh  Offline OP
newbie
L
Joined: Sep 2012
Posts: 41
There is / are a total of twenty insects on the wall.

Which is the correct bold word?

Thanks.

Re: There is / are a total of twenty insects... [Re: Lionel Koh] #211637
07/07/13 03:05 PM
07/07/13 03:05 PM
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 7,968
Worcester, MA
W
wofahulicodoc Offline
Carpal Tunnel
wofahulicodoc  Offline
Carpal Tunnel
W
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 7,968
Worcester, MA

There are twenty insects. "Insects" is plural.
but
There is a total... "Total" is singular.

The prepositional phrase "of twenty insects" doesn't determine the verb.

So "There is a total of twenty insects," but it may sound awkward to you. (It doesn't to me - "There are a total" sounds awkward to me - but I tend to be a prescriptivist.) The way to handle awkwardness is to rephrase the sentence. There are many insects, in fact a total of twenty. That's less awkward, but more wordy. Sometimes that's the price of clarity.

Re: There is / are a total of twenty insects... [Re: wofahulicodoc] #211723
07/12/13 06:19 PM
07/12/13 06:19 PM
Joined: Mar 2000
Posts: 1,027
Switzerland
wsieber Offline
old hand
wsieber  Offline
old hand
Joined: Mar 2000
Posts: 1,027
Switzerland
"There is a total of twenty insects," sounds good - but if you consider the whole sentence, including on the wall, the case is different for me. It's the insects that are crawling on the wall, not the abstract entity "total". So I would prefer the plural, as in "there are a lot of insects on the wall".

Re: There is / are a total of twenty insects... [Re: wsieber] #211725
07/12/13 07:09 PM
07/12/13 07:09 PM
Joined: Apr 2000
Posts: 10,538
this too shall pass
tsuwm Offline
Carpal Tunnel
tsuwm  Offline
Carpal Tunnel
Joined: Apr 2000
Posts: 10,538
this too shall pass
ain't English grand?!

Re: There is / are a total of twenty insects... [Re: tsuwm] #211728
07/12/13 11:19 PM
07/12/13 11:19 PM
Joined: Jun 2010
Posts: 1,554
Lower Aberdeen, Mississippi
J
jenny jenny Offline
veteran
jenny jenny  Offline
veteran
J
Joined: Jun 2010
Posts: 1,554
Lower Aberdeen, Mississippi
Yes English is great if you don't equivocate.
Case and number must match.
Unless you make up your own rules.

Re: There is / are a total of twenty insects... [Re: jenny jenny] #211729
07/13/13 12:09 AM
07/13/13 12:09 AM
Joined: Dec 2000
Posts: 13,803
Faldage Offline
Carpal Tunnel
Faldage  Offline
Carpal Tunnel
Joined: Dec 2000
Posts: 13,803
Originally Posted By: jenny jenny
Yes English is great if you don't equivocate.
Case and number must match.
Unless you make up your own rules.



Which we do all the time. Make up our own rules, that is. Back in the day when we had case in English, the case of an adjective had to match the case of the noun it was modifying. Also the gender. And the number.

And are you saying that the case must match the number?

Re: There is / are a total of twenty insects... [Re: Faldage] #211731
07/13/13 04:22 AM
07/13/13 04:22 AM
Joined: Apr 2000
Posts: 10,538
this too shall pass
tsuwm Offline
Carpal Tunnel
tsuwm  Offline
Carpal Tunnel
Joined: Apr 2000
Posts: 10,538
this too shall pass
>>Case and number must match.

>And are you saying that the case must match the number?

sure looks like it.

Re: There is / are a total of twenty insects... [Re: Lionel Koh] #211733
07/13/13 11:50 AM
07/13/13 11:50 AM
Joined: Dec 2000
Posts: 13,803
Faldage Offline
Carpal Tunnel
Faldage  Offline
Carpal Tunnel
Joined: Dec 2000
Posts: 13,803
>>>Case and number must match.

>>And are you saying that the case must match the number?

>sure looks like it.

No accountings for tastes.

Last edited by Faldage; 07/13/13 11:51 AM.
Re: There is / are a total of twenty insects... [Re: jenny jenny] #211738
07/13/13 05:38 PM
07/13/13 05:38 PM
Joined: Mar 2000
Posts: 1,027
Switzerland
wsieber Offline
old hand
wsieber  Offline
old hand
Joined: Mar 2000
Posts: 1,027
Switzerland
What would you say about the following example:
"There are a certain number of insects crawling on the wall" ? Here, the singular would sound very odd to me.

Re: There is / are a total of twenty insects... [Re: wsieber] #211742
07/14/13 03:30 AM
07/14/13 03:30 AM
Joined: Jun 2010
Posts: 1,554
Lower Aberdeen, Mississippi
J
jenny jenny Offline
veteran
jenny jenny  Offline
veteran
J
Joined: Jun 2010
Posts: 1,554
Lower Aberdeen, Mississippi
Originally Posted By: wsieber
What would you say about the following example:
"There are a certain number of insects crawling on the wall" ? Here, the singular would sound very odd to me.


Ok, let's try this one:
There is a certain number of insects crawling on the wall and that number is one.

My point is that "case", meaning nouns or pronouns, must agree in number with singular or plurals verbs and in number with the objects of the verb. Simple huh?

Page 1 of 2 1 2

Moderated by  Jackie 

Forum Statistics
Forums16
Topics13,883
Posts224,836
Members9,056
Most Online3,341
Dec 9th, 2011
Newest Members
Nikki1221, Veezkneez, LOC, Luna, wordie
9056 Registered Users
Who's Online Now
0 registered members (), 176 guests, and 3 spiders.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Top Posters(30 Days)
LOC 1
Top Posters(All Time)
wwh 13,858
Faldage 13,803
Jackie 11,613
tsuwm 10,538
LukeJavan8 9,158
AnnaStrophic 6,511
Wordwind 6,296
of troy 5,400
Disclaimer: Wordsmith.org is not responsible for views expressed on this site. Use of this forum is at your own risk and liability - you agree to hold Wordsmith.org and its associates harmless as a condition of using it.

Home | Today's Word | Yesterday's Word | Subscribe | FAQ | Archives | Search | Feedback
Wordsmith Talk | Wordsmith Chat

© 1994-2018 Wordsmith

Powered by UBB.threads™ PHP Forum Software 7.6.1.1
(Release build 20180111)
Page Time: 0.020s Queries: 14 (0.004s) Memory: 3.1750 MB (Peak: 3.3591 MB) Zlib disabled. Server Time: 2018-06-23 04:45:14 UTC