All your base are belong to us

There are 5 replies in this Thread. The last Post () by Rice.

  • Yes, it started as a video game, then became a meme and now we has broke the Internet.

    Although it's a fun joke and was never meant intentionally, the subject-verb agreement is now used mercilessly by millions and here's an explanation of how it came to be and what you should be doing.

    It has make sense to me.


  • Now this IS interesting. Take this rule, for instance:

    Tricky situation #4: When a collective noun is used

    Some subjects sound plural, but are actually something called a collective noun and they take a singular form. For example, some collective nouns are “family”, “group”, “organization”, and “team”. Others might be nouns like “news”, “politics”, or “economics”.

    These nouns are treated as singular subjects.


    The team performs completely in sync.”

    This seems to be from a US rule book. Am I right to assume that British grammar doesn’t recognize collective nouns in the same way? I am thinking of these examples from U.K. newspapers:

    “Manchester United have won!”

    “The Royal Navy prefer the original uniforms.”

    “Harrods are holding their semi annual sale.”

    In each of these cases, in the US the singular form of the verb would always be used.

  • In each case, the proper nouns describe a single entity. Microsoft, for example, is made up of thousands of people, but Microsoft itself is a single entity. Therefore, "Microsoft have" makes little sense regardless of whether it is American or UK English.

    US English will still refer to Microsoft as "they", however, which to my way of thinking is contrary. English is an inconsistent language no matter where you live.

    One thing that really gets my goat is when people refer to email in the plural (emails). You don't go to your mailbox to pick up the mails. Make that two things-- I don't like hearing "software" referred to in the plural, either. Like "many software". That really grates on my nerves. And don't you dare add an "s" to that word for it will make me scream out loud, :S


  • Americans consider an action by a collective noun as one action, taken collectively, therefore requiring a singular verb. Common British usage seems to acknowledge that multiple individuals are involved in the action, and reflect that assumption through use of a plural verb.

    This apparent British inconsistency is, as you point out, matched by the America inconsistency of using the plural “they” to refer to the singular antecedent of a collective noun.

    A couple of other observations:

    I’ve never seen the word “softwares,” but it strikes me as just wrong. (I had a Dutch friend who complained about her ‘hairs.’ Fine in Dutch, but singular in English)

    I’m not so sure, though, about the wrongheadedness of “emails.” I understand the comparison with ‘going to the mailbox to pick up my mail,’ but suggest that in this case the comparison could also be with ‘going to the mailbox to pick up my letters.”

    In other words, perhaps there is a case to be made for a plural form when the reference is to multiple individual pieces of email rather than a group (e.g., ‘Thousands of emails were received,’ in the sense of ‘Thousands of email replies were received.).

  • Headline in today’s Times:

    “Even if Liverpool Fail, There Is Much to Admire.”

    This just doesn’t make sense to me. Isn’t it the (collective, singular) team that fails, rather than (plural) multiple individuals?

    This is one of thousands of nuances that must make people learning English feel the task is just too sisyphean.