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16:58 Aug 6, 2004
This question was closed without grading. Reason: Other

English to English translations [PRO]
Linguistics
English term or phrase: syntax query
"A total of xx semester hours is required"
vs.
"A total of xx semester hours are required"


I need to solve a debate between two native English speakers (oy!), and will appreciate your assistance as to which one is correct and why.

Thanks much,

Susana
Susana Galilea
United States
Local time: 20:57
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Summary of answers provided
5 +13A total of xx hours is required.. BUT xx total hours are required
Vicky Papaprodromou
3 +5is
Heidi Stone-Schaller
5A total of xx hours ARE requiredRefugio
5UK and US differ on this
Tegan Raleigh
4The science of English grammer dictates .....
humbird


Discussion entries: 2





  

Answers


4 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): +5
is


Explanation:
Perhaps neither is completely wrong, but intuitively I would say "is," because total is singular I suppose.

Heidi Stone-Schaller
Local time: 03:57
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish, Native in GermanGerman

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  NancyLynn
2 mins

neutral  Laurel Porter: "are" _is_ completely wrong, IMO. The verb of a sentence must agree with the subject, which in this case is "total".
1 hr

agree  Paul Dixon: Yes - you've hit the nail on the head.
5 hrs

agree  Eva Karpouzi
7 hrs

agree  eccotraduttrice
14 hrs

agree  Iolanta Vlaykova Paneva
1 day9 hrs
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4 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +13
A total of xx hours is required.. BUT xx total hours are required


Explanation:
-

Vicky Papaprodromou
Greece
Local time: 04:57
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: Native in GreekGreek
PRO pts in category: 12

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  NancyLynn
2 mins
  -> Thanks!

agree  Kornelia Longoria
3 mins
  -> Thanks!

agree  Stefanie Sendelbach
3 mins
  -> Thanks!

agree  cjperera: sounds sensible.
4 mins
  -> Thanks!

agree  Maisar: Exactly, because "total" is a singular noun. One of those instances where a high proportion of native speakers favours the grammatically incorrect option.
59 mins
  -> Thanks a lot, Maisar!

agree  Laurel Porter: Exactly. The confusion (usually only in spoken English, among native speakers) arises from the proximity of "hours" to the verb. One tends to make the agreement with the last noun before the verb, correctly or not.
1 hr
  -> Ôhanks, Laurel. That's exactly my point.

agree  Armorel Young
2 hrs
  -> Ôhanks, Armorel!

agree  Eva Olsson: I am totally ( :) ) with you and Laurel. And Maisar. Total-singular, hours-plural.
3 hrs
  -> Thanks!

agree  Madeleine MacRae Klintebo
4 hrs
  -> Thanks!

agree  Jörgen Slet
5 hrs
  -> Thanks!

agree  Eva Karpouzi
7 hrs
  -> Thanks!

agree  Saleh Chowdhury, Ph.D.
9 hrs
  -> Thanks!

agree  Pnina
15 hrs
  -> Thanks!
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8 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
The science of English grammer dictates .....


Explanation:
Heidran is right. The answer is "IS". However she said "intuition" lead her to this answer. Unfortunately "intuition" is not a good yardstick for the science of English grammer. Here's the reason.
Everybody knows Subject-Predicate(Verb) agreement. In this case the subject is "A total", and this is a sigular. This is very confusing because of "total" is by itself NOT a single (it's a collection of things -- semester hours). Nonetheless, it is a singular because of "A". This "A" bundled up so-so number of semester hours into one unit that is requirement. If the sentence is something like "Altogether XX semester hours --- required, then the verb (so-called Be-VerbI is "are".
Subject phrase (in this case A total of XX semester hour"s") is always misleading. Subject phrase is a collection of words that prceeds (comes before). Watch for this kind of stuff.
PLEASE COMPARE BELOW TWO SENTENCES:
1) Red haired people ARE believed to be hot tempered.
2) Temper of red haired people IS believed to be hot tempered.
Subject of 1) is "people" in this subject phrase, subject of 2) is "temper" which is singular.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 9 hrs 57 mins (2004-08-07 02:55:51 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Woops! Correction.
2) Temper of red haird people IS believed to be hot.

humbird
Native speaker of: Native in JapaneseJapanese, Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 4

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  Heidi Stone-Schaller: I also said that "total" is singular, which is in truth what led me to give my answer. The intuition part refers to the fact that I personally prefer this version while I am aware that some native speakers would use "are" -- nothing to do with yardsticks
1 day12 hrs
  -> Don't take it personal. As it's not meant to be, please.
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4 days   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5
A total of xx hours ARE required


Explanation:
Total is a collective noun which can be used in either singular or plural form. In this case, followed by the adjectival phrase "of xx hours", it is plural. This may not seem logical to non-native speakers of English, but it is a question of accepted correct usage.

Other examples of similar constructions:

A large number of people ARE concerned about the war in Iraq.

A majority of registered voters EXERCISE their right to vote in presidential elections.


--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 4 days (2004-08-10 18:49:39 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

P.S. There is nothing worse than a debate between native English speakers, because our language is not logical. We must often rely on what sounds right because we have heard it enough times from educated people, as well as what looks right because we have read it enough times in respected sources. As teachers of early childhood literacy, we are supposed to cue the children: Does it look right? Does it sound right? Does it make sense? And native speakers pretty much have a handle on such queries by age six. For English language learners, the questions are bewildering for a few more years.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 4 days (2004-08-10 19:38:36 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

P.S. There is nothing worse than a debate between native English speakers, because our language is not logical. We must often rely on what sounds right because we have heard it enough times from educated people, as well as what looks right because we have read it enough times in respected sources. As teachers of early childhood literacy, we are supposed to cue the children: Does it look right? Does it sound right? Does it make sense? And native speakers pretty much have a handle on such queries by age six. For English language learners, the questions are bewildering for a few more years.

Refugio
Local time: 18:57
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 35
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18 days   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5
UK and US differ on this


Explanation:
In terms of conjugating collective nouns, such as "total," speakers of US and UK English differ. Speakers of "English English" often say, "The group are good," while USAmericans will say, "The group is good." I don't know how it goes in Canada or elsewhere... but in any case, both of your speakers are correct.

Tegan Raleigh
United States
Local time: 18:57
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 8
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