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Thread: agreement between subject and object(?)

  1. #1
    Anonymous Guest

    Default agreement between subject and object(?)

    Dear Teachers:

    I read the following from a well-known book published in America.

    "Not only do subjects need to agree with their verbs, but they need to agree with their objects as well. So it's incorrect to say the cats have a flea collar, the object must be plural as in the cats have flea collars."

    But I have never heard of anything like "subject and object agreement". So could you tell me this is right? And can't we use sentences like nowadays all computers have an embedded modem, or in case of complement, their principal crop is potatoes or the younger children are a problem?

    Thank you!

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Default Re: agreement between subject and object(?)

    Quote Originally Posted by thirsty
    Dear Teachers:

    I read the following from a well-known book published in America.

    "Not only do subjects need to agree with their verbs, but they need to agree with their objects as well. So it's incorrect to say the cats have a flea collar, the object must be plural as in the cats have flea collars."

    But I have never heard of anything like "subject and object agreement". So could you tell me this is right? And can't we use sentences like nowadays all computers have an embedded modem, or in case of complement, their principal crop is potatoes or the younger children are a problem?

    Thank you!
    I'd say that this is more an issue of logic than of grammar. The distinction between singular and plural is important to speakers of English, and in your first example, multiple cats would indeed have multiple collars, so it would sound illogical for you to use the singular "collar" and imply that there was only one collar.

    However, if I have 2 children who attend the same school, I would say:
    - My children love their school.
    If each child attends a different school, I would say:
    - My children love their schools.

    About your other examples:
    - Nowadays all computers have an embedded modem. [You should say, "All computers have embedded modems", though that doesn't make it clear whether or not each computer has only one modem. Here it is best to use the collective form:
    - Nowadays every computer has an embedded modem. ]

    - Their principal crop is potatoes. [This, of course is fine. It is perfectly logical. ]

    - The younger children are a problem. [This is also correct, assuming that you have a single problem that in care of the children. If you wanted to say that each child individually was a problem, you could as well say, "The younger children are problems."]

    As I say, it is a question of logic and what you are trying to communicate, not grammar. But you must use the proper singular or plural form to say what you intend.
    ---- Pete

  3. #3
    Anonymous Guest

    Default Thank you. One more question.

    Thank you very much, Pete.

    Now I see there is no grammar rule like "subject and object agreement", but we shoud follow logic in determining the number of an object or a complement.

    Here's one more question.
    As we see, the sentence "Their principal crop is potatoes." is logical and correct. Here, 'potatoes' seems to be used generically(potato as a whole). Then can it be exchangeable with 'the potato' or 'a potato"? To me, 'the potato' makes sense, but I am not sure whether I can use 'a potato' here.

    Thank you again!

  4. #4
    Join Date
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    Location
    Virginia, USA
    Posts
    3,695

    Default Re: Thank you. One more question.

    I agree with you. You can use "the potato" (standing for the generic category of "potato"), but "a potato", which indicates a single potato, doesn't make sense.
    ---- Pete

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