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|English to English translations [PRO]|
Art/Literary - Linguistics
|English term or phrase: singular verb/plural noun|
|Is it possible to use a singular verb with regard to a plural noun if one can justify an allusion to a greater, overall singular noun?|
Then Bob shows her something she’d never noticed before: on the surface of the water, there are small silent explosions making circular ripples. At first Mary looks up at the sky, because she thinks it IS raindrops. But the sky is blue. Then she realizes, iit IS bubbles coming up from the bottom and bursting at the surface of the water. Bob says it IS the fish breathing, but Mary thinks it IS probably the plants.
My sense of grammar tells me I should substitute are for is (she thinks they ARE raindrops, etc.). However, I know that in spoken English people would say this kind of thing. Can it be justified by saying that the use of the singular verb is an allusion to the cause of the phenomena?
i.e. she thinks the phenomena (of the explosions) is due to raindrops?
I.e. she realizes the penomena is due to bubbles
i.e. Bob says the phenomena is caused by the fish breathing.
i.e. Mary thinks the phenomena is probably caused by the plants.
Thank you in advance for your thoughts.
|English translation:it depends...|
...on the wording and the register
'it is xxx' is often used in vernacular language to describe a situation (famous examples: it's raining, it's cold, it's windy). IMO the last sentence of your text is an instance of this, and there's no need to change it.
However, in the other instances I think you would do better to reword this slightly (and your text will read better if you don't constantly use the same construction). May I suggest:
Then Bob shows her something she never noticed before: on the surface of the water, there are small silent explosions making circular ripples. At first Mary looks up at the sky, because she thinks this is caused by raindrops, but the sky is blue. Then she realizes that bubbles are rising from the bottom and bursting at the surface. Bob says it is the fish breathing, but Mary thinks it is probably the plants.
Selected response from:
Local time: 10:35
|Thanks to every one for their comments and discussions. I would especially like to thank Marta France whose comments on tone were very perceptive and whose reference to the empty subject were extremely helpful.|
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer
11 mins confidence: 13 mins confidence: peer agreement (net): +9
it (the phenomena) is
You can't say "it are".
That's my way of understanding this.
Note added at 15 mins (2009-02-05 13:49:59 GMT)
Sorry, I meant to say: it (the phenomenon) is. It is one phenomenon.