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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Criminal Sentence 439: A Band of Peeved Grammarians

Heard on "History Detectives," a PBS show:

"A small band of armed warriors are in a standoff."

And the grammarians revolt!

"A small band" is the subject, and that is a singular noun (although it refers to a group). Therefore, "is" is the correct verb. If the sentence started "Some armed warriors," "are" would be correct.


Anonymous said...

Then does it also mean that this sentence - "A group of people was attacked" and not "A group of people were attacked"? I often find both used. Please advise.

The Sentence Sleuth said...

"A group" plus a singular verb is more common in the U.S., but "a group" plus a plural verb is more common in the U.K.

Westley said...

From something I was proofing tonight:

A large portion of my clientele are foreigners.

Singular or plural?? "A portion" certainly sounds singular, but there are plural foreigners.

The Sentence Sleuth said...

Westley, I would say a large portion is (note that it's A portion, indicating singular).