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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: t/iey 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 3.
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." "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 negligence 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.
i'o 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.''
* For tbe exception! to tliit Rule, see VoL ii. Part 3. Key. Chap. 1. Rule 8. The note.
But hesides the confusion, and the latitude of application, which such a construction would introduce, it appears to be more proper 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 substantives, joined by a copulative, must always require the verb or pronoun to which they refer, to be placed in the plural number ;" apd 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 numher. 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 wisdom, which we cannot fathom." "Virtue, honour, nay, even self-interest, conspire to recommend the measure." "Pattiotism, 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- ii. Part 1. Exercises. Chap. 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
RULE III. 151"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
* Though the conttruction will not admit of a plural verb, the sentence would certainly stand better thui: " The king, the lords, and the commons, form am excellent constitution."
or thou art to blame;" "Thou or I am in fault;" " I, or thou, or he, is the author of it;" "George or I am the person." But it would he hetter to say; "Either I am to blame, or thou art," &c.
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 ;n "The parliament is dissolved;" "The nation is powerful:" "My people do not consider: they have not known me:" "The multitude eagerly pursue pleasure, as their chief good:" "The council were divided in their sentiments."
See Vol. ii. 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 he 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 he hetter to say, "The peasantry go barefoot, and the middle sort make use" &ic.; because the idea in both these cases, is that of a number. On the contrary, there is a harshness in the following sentences, in which nouns of number have verbs plural: because the ideas they represent seem not to he sufficiently divided in the mind. "The court of Rome were not without solicitude." "The house of commons were of small weight." "The house of lords were so much influenced by these reasons." "Stephen's party were entirely broken up by the captivity of their leader." "An army of twenty-four thousand were assembled." "What reason have the church of Rome for proceeding in this manner?" "There is indeed no constitu
tion so tame and careless of their own defence." "All the virtues of mankind are to be counted upon a few fingers, but his follies and vices are innumerable." Is not mankind in this place a noun of multitude, and such as requires the pronoun referring to it, to be in the plural numher, their?
When a noun of multitude is preceded by a definitive word, which clearly limits the sense to an aggregate with an idea of unity, it requires a verb and pronoun to agree with it in the singular number: as, "A company of troops was detached; a troop of cavalry was raised; this people is become a great nation; that assembly was numerous; a great number of men and women was collected."—See pages 147, 148.
On many occasions, where a noun of multitude is used, it is very difficult to decide, whether the verb should be in the singular, or in the plural number; and this difficulty has induced some grammarians to cut the knot at once, and to assert that every noun of multitude, as it constitutes one aggregate of many particulars, must always be considered as conveying the idea of unity; and that, consequently, the verb and pronoun agreeing with it, cannot with propriety, be ever used in the plural number. This opinion appears to be not well considered; it is contrary to the established practice of the best writers of the language, and against the rules of the most respectable grammarians. Some nouns of multitude certainly convey to the mind an idea of plurality, others, that of a whole as one thing, and others again sometimes that of unity, and sometimes that of plurality. On this ground, it is warrantable, and consistent with the nature of things, to apply a plural verb and pronoun to the one class, and a singular verb and pronoun, to the other. We shall immediately perceive the impropriety of the following constructions: "The clergy has withdrawn itself from the temporal courts;" "The nobility, exclusive of its capacity as hereditary counsellor of the crown, forms the pillar to support the throne;" "The commonalty is divided into several degrees;" "The people of England is possessed of super-eminent privileges;" "The multitude was clamorous for the object of its affections;" "The assembly was divided in its opinion;" "The fleet was all dispersed, and some of it was taken."—In all these instances, as well as in many others, the plural verb and pronoun should be used: and if the reader will apply them, as he looks over the sentences a second time, he will perceive the propriety and effect of a change in the construction.
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