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nouns is in the plural number, the verb is commonly plural :" as, “ A part of the exports consist of raw silk ;” “A number
, of men and women were present;" “ The train of our ideas are often interrupted." The support of this rule has been ingeniously attempted by the following observations : “ The whole of the words in the first part of each of the preceding sentences, or the noun and its adjuncts, are the actual nominative. Separate the words part and exports, in the first example, and the affirmation of the verb cannot with truth be applied to either : and as the whole must be considered as the nominative, the verb is very naturally connected in number with the last noun.”—This reasoning, how plausible soever it may, at first sight appear, is certainly destitute of solidity. It would counteract some of the plainest principles of grammar; and would justify the following constructions, and a multitude of others of a similar nature. 6 The truth of the narratives have never been disputed;" “ The virtue of these men and women, are indeed exemplary;"? " A fondness for such distinctions, render a man ridiculous ;” “A deviation from good principles, soon produce a deviation from good conduct.”. In each of these instances, it may be said, as our opponents say in support of the proposed rule, that if we separate the two nouns, the affirmation cannot with truth be applied to either; the verb respects the whole preceding phrase, in the one case as much as in the other. But will it hence follow, that the verb is to be connected in number with the last noun ? The truth is, the assertion grammatically respects the first nouns in all the preceding instances. The adjuncts are connected with those nouns, as subordinate parts, or as modifications, and are put in the objective case, governed by the prepositions. The latter nouns cannot therefore be the nominatives to the respective verbs ; they cannot be at the same time, in the nominative and objective cases. That a sentence, or part of a sentence, may be the nominative to a verb, is undoubtedly true ; but, in these cases, the construction is obviously different from that which exists in the cases enumerated under the proposed rule. In the former, there is no prominent object to which the verb chiefly relates: and the whole preceding part must therefore be considered as the nominative: in the latter, there is a capital, leading object, which attracts the verb, and which supports the dependent circumstances.
Two or more nouns, &c. in the singular number, joined together by a copulative conjunction, expressed or understood, must have verbs, nouns, and pronouns, agreeing with them in the plural number: as, “ Socrates and Plato were wise; they were the most eminent philosophers of Greece ;" * The sun that rolls over our heads, the food that we receive, the rest that we enjoy, daily admonish us of a superior and superintending Power."*
See Vol. II. Part 3. Exercises. Chap. 1. Rule 2.
This rule is often violated ; some instances of which are annexed. And so was also James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon;" “ and so were also." “ All joy, tranquillity, and peace,
even for ever and ever, doth dwell;" “ dwell for ever." “ By whose power all good and evil is distributed ;" “ are distributed.”
66 Their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished ;” “are perished." “ The thoughtless and intemperate enjoyment of pleasure, the criminal abuse of it, and the forgetfulness of our being accountable creatures, obliterates every serious thought of the proper business of life, and effaces the sense of religion and of God.” It ought to be,“ obliterate," and "
" " efface.
1. When the nouns are nearly related, or scarcely distinguishable in sense, and sometimes even when they are very different, some authors have thought it allowable to put the verbs, nouns, and pronouns, in the singular number: as, “ Tranquillity and peace dwells there ;" "Ignorance and nego ligence has produced the effect;" “ The discomfiture and slaughter was very great.” But it is evidently contrary to the first principles of grammar, to consider two distinct ideas as one, however nice may be their shades of difference : and if there be no difference, one of them must be superfluous, and ought to be rejected.
To support the above construction, it is said, that the verb may be understood as applied to each of the preceding terms ; as in the following example : “Sand, and salt, and a mass of iron, is easier to bear than a man without understanding." But besides the confusion, and the latitude of application, which such a construction would introduce, it appears to be more proper
* For the exceptions to this Rule, see Vol. ii. Part 3. Key. Chap. 1. Rule 8. The note.
and analogical, in cases where the verb is intended to be applied to any one of the terms, to make use of the disjunctive conjunction, which grammatically refers the verb to one or other of the preceding terms in a separate view. To preserve the distinctive uses of the copulative and disjunctive conjunctions, would render the rules precise, consistent, and intelligible. Dr. Blair observes, that two or more substan
. tives, joined by a copulative, must always require the verb or pronoun to which they refer, to be placed in the plural number:” and this is the general sentiment of English grammarians.
2. In many complex sentences, it is difficult for learners to determine, whether one or more of the clauses are to be considered as the nominative case; and consequently, whether the verb should be in the singular or the plural number. We shall, therefore, set down a number of varied examples of this nature, which may serve as some government to the scholar, with respect to sentences of a similar construction.
" Prosperity, with humility, renders its possessor, truly amiable." # The ship, with all her furniture, was destroyed.” ** Not
· only his estate, his reputation too has suffered by his misconduct." “ The general also, in conjunction with the officers, has applied for redress.” “He cannot be justified; for it is true, that the prince, as well as the people, was blameworthy." “ The king, with his life-guard, has just passed through the village.” “In the mutual influence of body and soul, there, is a wisdom, a wonderful wisdorn, which we cannot fathom." “Virtue, honour, nay, even self-interest, conspire to recommend the measure." “ Patriotism, morality, every public and private consideration, demand our submission to just and lawful government.” “ Nothing delights me so much as the works of nature."-See Vol. 2. Part 1. Exercises. Chup. 1, Sec. 9.
In support of such forms of expression as the following, we see the authority of Hume, Priestly, and other writers; and we annex them for the reader's consideration.
“A long course of time, with a variety of accidents and circumstances, are requisite to produce those revolutions." “The king, with the lords and commons, form an excellent frame of government.” “The side A, with the sides B and C, compose the triangle.” “ The fire communicated itself to the bed, which, with the furniture of the room, and a valuable library, were all entirely consumed.” It is however, proper to observe, that these modes of expression do not appear to be warranted by the just principles of construction. The words, “A long course of time,” “The king,” “ The side A," and
"which," are the true nominatives to the respective verbs. In the last example, the word all should be expunged. As the preposition with governs the objective case, in English ; and if translated into Latin would govern the ablative case, it is manifest that the clauses following with, in the preceding sentences, cannot form any part of the nominative case. They cannot be at the same time in the objective and the nominative cases. The following sentence appears to be unexceptionable ; and may serve to explain the others. “The lords and commons are essential branches of the British constitution: the king, with them, forms an excellent frame of government.'
3. If the singular nouns and pronouns, which are joined together by a copulative conjunction, be of several persons, in making the plural pronouns agree with them in person, the second person takes place of the third, and the first of both : as, “ James, and thou, and I, are attached to our country," * Thou and he shared it between you."
The conjunction disjunctive has an effect contrary to that of the conjunction copulative; for as the verb, noun, or pronoun, is referred to the preceding terms taken separately, it must be in the singular number: as, “ Ignorance or negligence has caused this mistake;" “ John, James, or Joseph, intends to accompany me;" “ There is, in many minds, neither knowledge nor understanding."
See Vol. ii. Part 3. Exercises. Chap. 1. Rule 3. The following sentences are variations from this rule. "A man may see a metaphor or an allegory in a picture, as well as read them in a description;" " read it.”
** Neither character nor dialogue were yet understood ; " " was yet." “ It must indeed be confessed, that a lampoon or a satire, do not carry in them robbery or murder;" “ does not carry in it.” “Death, or some worse misfortune, soon divide them."
” it ought to be “ divides."
1. When singular pronouns, or a noun and pronoun of different persons are disjunctively connected, the verb must agree with that person which is placed nearest to it: as, “ I or thou art to blame;"" Thou or I am in fault;"" " ), or tbou, or he, is the author of it;" “ George or I am the person.” But it would be better to say; “ Either I am to blame, or thou art," &c.
* Though the construction will not admit of a plural verb, the sentence would certainly stand better thus: “The king, the lords, and the commons, form an exceslent constitution."
2. When a disjunctive occurs between a singular noun, or pronoun, and a plural one, the verb is made to agree with the plural noun and pronoun: as, Neither poverty nor riches were injurious to him ;" “ I or they were offended by it." But in this case the plural noun or pronoun, when it can conveniently be done, should be placed next to the verb.
A NOUN of multitude, or signifying many, may have a verb or pronoun agreeing with it, either of the singular or plural number; yet not without regard to the import of the word, as conveying unity or plurality of idea : as, “ The meeting was large; 6. The parliament is dissolved ;”. “ The nation is powerful:” “ My people do not consider: they have not known me:" " 'Ï'he multitude eagerly pursue
6. pleasure, as their chief good :" “ The council were divided in their sentiments."
See Vol. ij. Part 3. Exercises. Chap. 1. Rule 4. We ought to consider whether the term immediately suggests the idea of the number it represents, or whether it exhibits to the mind the idea of the whole as one thing. In the former case, the verb ought to be plural : in the latter, it ought to be singular. Thus, it seems improper to say, “ The peasantry goes barefoot, and the middle sort makes use of wooden shoes.” It would be better to say, “ The peasantry go barefoot, and the middle sort make use," &c.; because the idea in both these cases, is that of a number. On the contrary, there is a barshness in the following sentences, in which nouns of number have verbs plural : because the ideas they represent seem not to be sutlicientiy divided in the mind. “ The court of Rome were not without solicitude." house of commons were of small weight.”
66 The house of lords were so much influenced by these reasons. phen's party were entirely broken up by the captivity of their leader.
“ An army of twenty-four thousand were assembled." 6 What reason have the church of Rome for proceeding in this manner ? '“ There is indeed no constitu