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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Criminal Sentence 429: Bak to Skool 2

From today's paper (a sub-headline):

"Dizzying array of changes greet students as classes start today."

Anyone see the error?


ChildsPlay said...

Dizzying array of changes greets students as classes start today.

NeedToLearnGrammar said...

Good day:

Could you please explain what the error is in the sentence? I read it over and over and couldn't find anything wrong with it. (I think that means I need to re-read your book!)

ChildsPlay said...


The easiest way to see the problem is to take out the modifying phrase "of changes" and strip the sentence down to its basics: array greet. It is easier to see there that the singular subject doesn't agree with the verb. It should read "array greets". I hope that helps.


The Sentence Sleuth said...

NeedToLearn: ChildsPlay was right. Let us know if you need further explanation!

David said...

Array is a collective noun and can take either a plural or singular verb depending on its meaning. The "of changes" modifier also provides the possibility of notional agreement, shifting the noun toward the plural. I would leave the sentence as written, and as the author intended, with a plural meaning.

The Sentence Sleuth said...

David, I agree that "array" has a collective sense but would you say, "The array are ..."?

David said...

I think what you have to look for is whether array has the sense of unity or of multiplicity. Dizzying to me implies multiplicity, an onslaught of the senses. Thinking of array as a oneness does not carry forward the effect of the adjective "dizzying." There are so many changes that it will make your head swim. That's the sense I take away. That said, the interpretation can be subjective, and therefore, either the singular or the plural may be right. I just think the plural verb happens to be more right.

I checked (briefly) some online magazines to see how they handle array, and there were few examples of array as the subject of a sentence, but of the ones I did find "array" was singular if the meaning was of unified group and plural if it was merely a grouping of individual things to be considered as behaving separately.

More often than not, array will be singular, but in this instance, I think the plural sense works best.

ChildsPlay's advice about being careful to watch out for intervening information that may cause agreement problems between the subject and verb is good; but(I assume)she overlooked the fact that the subject was a collective noun, requiring that the sentence's entire content needed to be considered to see if the correct verb choice should be plural or singular.

ChildsPlay said...


David said...

My apologies, CP.