Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Subject-Verb Agreement (9).

Part A: “one in five”; “one of every five.” When the first number is “one,” this construction takes a singular: “one in three is not admitted,” “one of every five achieves a perfect score,” etc. Part B: Decades. Decades customarily take plural verbs: “the 1930s were a tough time in America.” The following is unidiomatic: “The 1950s is [read ‘are’] remembered more for its [read ‘their’] sociology than for its [read ‘their’] politics.” R.Z. Sheppard, “Golden Oldies,” Time, 19 July 1993, at 61. Part C: An Unusual Plural. By convention — and through the principle of synesis — a singular abstract noun may take a plural verb if it’s modified by two or more adjectives referring to different varieties of things denoted by that noun. E.g.: o “Eastern and Western art differ in many fundamental ways.” o “Classical and modern philosophy are not radically different fields of study.” One way of analyzing those sentences is to say that the first adjective has an implied noun after it. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “Her tongue will not obey her heart, nor can her heart inform her tongue.” William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra, 3.2.57-58.
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