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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Grammar Question

Ashley has this question:

Is the following sentence grammatically correct?

"One of the unexpected outcomes of this training program has been the positive rewards that our students have accrued midway through the program."

I think it is incorrect, because "positive rewards" are clearly plural, as the author uses the word "have" later in the sentence. And of course, I think it is wrong because the sentence starts out singular ("one of the unexpected....").

Thanks for the question, Ashley. I agree that the sentence sounds awkward, but the subject ("one") does agree with the verb ("has been"). It's tricky because the sentence contains a mix of singular and plural.

Overall it's a bad sentence that should be rewritten. It would be better to state what positive rewards you're talking about because at the moment this sentence is too vague. I'll just make up a reward as I rewrite (just for fun, I'm imagining that the training program is for budding archaeologists):

"Our students are midway through the training program and have unexpectedly learned how to deal with raging sandstorms as they dig for fossils in the desert."

This is probably not the reward that the writer was talking about, but you can tell that the rewritten sentence sounds a lot more specific, and there's no question about subject-verb agreement.

If you have a problematic sentence, just rewrite it! And be more specific while you're at it!

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