ProZ.com global directory of translation services
 The translation workplace
Ideas

 
User
Thread poster: Edward Potter
each, every, everyone, everybody - singular or plural?

Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:55
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jul 3, 2003

Another point of confusion which I would like to discuss:

Are these guys singular or plural:

each
every
everyone
everybody

I'd be happy to hear what my fellow linguists have to say.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:55
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
They're all singular Jul 3, 2003

Examples:
Each member has the right to speak.
Every man available was issued with a rifle.
Everyone has an interest in the success of this plan.
(Two song titles:)
Everybody loves somebody.
Everybody's somebody's fool.

Try putting plural verbs in place of the singular ones. They would all seem quite wrong to me.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

two2tango  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 16:55
Member
English to Spanish
+ ...
But..... Jul 3, 2003

You´d normally use *their* as a possessive adjective, *his or her* would sound too awkward.

Everybody is leaving now, and picking their (*his or her* )belongings on the way out..

Haydée


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Carolyn Denoncourt  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:55
Member (2004)
French to English
+ ...
A collective noun is singular Jul 3, 2003

Jack is correct. The grammatical explanation is that words like "everybody" "everyone" are considered to be "collective nouns" and treated as a singular entity, a group, a singular noun. The use of a singular noun should always have a singular verb and any related possessive adjectives should also be singular (like his or her). While it is true that to Americans the use of "their" is actually beginning to sound better than "his or her", the latter is still the correct agreement. As translators, we can appreciate how correct agreement is useful getting the correct meaning of the sentence.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:55
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
And this one Jul 3, 2003

How about this sentence:

The flywheel, along with the bearings, the spark plugs and the pistons is (are?) the most important component(s?) of the engine.

Not that this sentence sounds all that great in English, but I have to deal with this type of structure all the time. Comments?


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:55
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I'd put it in plural, Edward Jul 3, 2003

not out of correctness (maybe I would restructure the sentence to admit a plural), but because spark plugs, bearings and the rest don't seem components of the flywheel (you may get a clue on this from the original, which I doubt is that great, anyway).

Direct link Reply with quote
 

NancyLynn
Canada
Local time: 15:55
Member (2002)
French to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
their is an unfortunate addition to the spoken language Jul 3, 2003


two2tango wrote:

You´d normally use *their* as a possessive adjective, *his or her* would sound too awkward.

Everybody is leaving now, and picking their (*his or her* )belongings on the way out..

Haydée


his or her is the grammatically correct way of putting it, and truly identifies that each and every one of them is doing his or her job.
I cringe when I see something like 'Parents having dificulty disciplining their child can ask them for a time-out'. It is the direct result of political correctness blowing everything out of proportion, being afraid to use 'him' or 'her' as a pronoun in case the reader is offended by the gender of the pronoun (!)
So please be careful. If your noun is plural, its pronoun must be as well, for concordance.
Nancy the English teacher


Direct link Reply with quote
 

NancyLynn
Canada
Local time: 15:55
Member (2002)
French to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
singular subject = singular verb Jul 3, 2003


Edward Potter wrote:

How about this sentence:

The flywheel, along with the bearings, the spark plugs and the pistons is (are?) the most important component(s?) of the engine.

Not that this sentence sounds all that great in English, but I have to deal with this type of structure all the time. Comments?

Just take out the subordinate clause (along with.....) and leave the original subject. Is it singular? Then the verb is singular.
Nancy the grammar teacher


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:55
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
This is a sentence up with which I will not put Jul 3, 2003

....as George Bernard Shaw once said. Or as the Irishman said to the motorist asking for directions, "You can't get there from here". Is the flywheel the most important, in which case it is more important than the bearings etc.? Or are they all equally important? I think probably the latter, so I would say "The flywheel, bearings, spark plugs and pistons are the most important..." But what about the fuel system, cooling system etc.? It would be truer to say they are "among the most important", though as a translator I don't think I could depart that far from the actual text.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:55
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Very good answer Jul 3, 2003

Jack, that was excellent. Your comments are the type of thing I was looking for, especially the humor. Yes, I myself will not up with this put either. You wouldn't believe the horribly written texts I have to translate. I like your comment about departing from the original text. It tears me apart when you know the target text will be much better by doing so, but if you do, you are not being faithful to the text. But if you are faithful to the text you risk having your customer think you don't write well.

In summation: arrrghh!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 21:55
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Move the subject closer to the verb Jul 4, 2003

[quote]Edward Potter wrote:

How about this sentence:

The flywheel, along with the bearings, the spark plugs and the pistons is (are?) the most important component(s?) of the engine.

can become

Along with the bearings, the spark plugs and the pistons, the flywheel is one of the most important components of the engine.

In other contexts I sometimes use 'ing' verbs: The flywheel and ... being among the most important ... However, this assumes another verb and subordinates your clause.

But I run into the problem all the time in Scandinavian languages, where the verb does not distinguish between singular and plural, or gender! You really have to analyse some sentences carefully to work out who is doing what.

I think that's one reason why I love my job!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

NancyLynn
Canada
Local time: 15:55
Member (2002)
French to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
The best solution Jul 5, 2003


CRAndersen wrote:

Along with the bearings, the spark plugs and the pistons, the flywheel is one of the most important components of the engine.



and you don't even depart from the original; you are simply writing in English, which is the best form of translation.
Great!:-)


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Phill Provance
From a real, live English-language writer Nov 1, 2009

"Along with the bearings, the spark plugs and the pistons, the flywheel is one of the most important components of the engine."

Actually, the real problem I think you're having is that the sentence makes no grammatical sense. The source of the confusion is that the sentence uses the superlative "most important," and usually we don't say multiple things are all equally " most important" - especially not when listing.

What's more, this sentence makes no technical sense to me because an engine needs all its parts, or it wouldn't have them. (Adding things you don't need to a machine like that is ludicrously inefficient).

But anyhow...

What I would suggest is one of the following four constructions:

1.) Aside from the bearings, spark plugs and pistons, the flywheel is the engine's most important component.

2.) The most important engine components are the flywheel, bearings, spark plugs and pistons.

3.) The flywheel, spark plugs, bearings and pistons are among the engine's most important components.

4.) The flywheel, bearings, spark plugs and pistons are the engine's most important components.

Of course, you'll have to determine which part of the sentence deserves the most stress (the components, their importance or the engine) and also consider flow before going with any of these.

Final Note: You should also remove excessive articles, and change the genitive prepositional phrase (of) to a much more concise possessive construction. Also, if the sentence refers to engines in general (not a specific type) I suggest removing all articles, pluralizing the parts and "... are the most important engine components" or "... are the most important components of any engine," depending on what you wish to stress.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:55
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
I like this one - from a play in which I took part years ago Nov 1, 2009


Jack Doughty wrote:

....as George Bernard Shaw once said. Or as the Irishman said to the motorist asking for directions, "You can't get there from here". Is the flywheel the most important, in which case it is more important than the bearings etc.? Or are they all equally important? I think probably the latter, so I would say "The flywheel, bearings, spark plugs and pistons are the most important..." But what about the fuel system, cooling system etc.? It would be truer to say they are "among the most important", though as a translator I don't think I could depart that far from the actual text.


From "Forgetmenot Lane" by Peter Nicholls:

Son to Father (returning from a Masonic meeting): Dad, what are your trousers rolled up for?
Father: No, George, "For what are your trousers rolled up?"
Son: No, Dad, "Up for what are your trousers rolled?"
(Exit Father, miffed)

Jenny

P.S. Please note my "in which I took part", not "which I took part in".


Direct link Reply with quote
 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:

Moderator(s) of this forum
Fernanda Rocha[Call to this topic]
Rita Pang[Call to this topic]

You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

each, every, everyone, everybody - singular or plural?






PerfectIt consistency checker
Faster Checking, Greater Accuracy

PerfectIt helps deliver error-free documents. It improves consistency, ensures quality and helps to enforce style guides. It’s a powerful tool for pro users, and comes with the assurance of a 30-day money back guarantee.

More info »
WordFinder
The words you want Anywhere, Anytime

WordFinder is the market's fastest and easiest way of finding the right word, term, translation or synonym in one or more dictionaries. In our assortment you can choose among more than 120 dictionaries in 15 languages from leading publishers.

More info »