Stewarts Corner
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Nouns that take singular verbs

Academic subjects that end in «ics». Examples: Acoustics, classics, economics, electronics, linguistics, mechatronics, mathematics, optics, phonetics, physics, statistics. These all follow the pattern, «Acoustics is interesting». But if such words can be used in a different sense than an academic subject, there is a plural verb. Examples: «the acoustics in the room are...», «the optics of the telescope are...», «the statistics were collected».

Diseases like:measles, mumps, German measles

Games like:billiards, checkers (AE)/draughts (BE), darts, dominoes

Proper names like:Athens, Brussels, Flanders

Some singular nouns:News, a series, a means, a crossroads. Examples: «the news always is always on at seven» , «a series of experiments was done».

Units with numbers

One unit of time, money, measurement or weight. These take a singular verb as long as they are seen as a single entity. Examples:

« A period of three weeks is enough for this project» «200 000 francs is still unpaid»

«50 kilometres is too far» «450 tonnes is registered»

Plural noun phrases used as adjectives. A plural noun phrase like «three weeks» can be used as an adjective, as in: «a three-week holiday», which takes a singular verb. Note the hyphen and that an adjective phrase cannot have a plural «s». Examples:

«a fifty-tonne vessel is berthed» «an 130-degree deviation was recorded»

«a two hundred and seventy thousand pound increase is acceptable»

Unit with two nouns that are joined by «and» or &:

If two nouns are closely linked like salt and pepper, they have a singular verb if they are regarded as a single unit. Examples:

«fish and chips is typical English» «salt and pepper is necessary»

«research and development is vital» «R&D in these areas is required»

«our E&P is profitable» (exploration and production)

Other cases when singular verbs are used were discussed in Stewart's Corner in Universitets-avisa 6/97.

Tricky words

a number of/the number of

a number of takes a plural verb, as in: «a number of students are cramming for exams». The number of takes a singular verb, as in «the number of students who pass exams is amazing . One way to remember this is PAST:Plural verb with «A number of», Singular verb with «The number of».

fellowship, grant, scholarship, stipend

fellowship (at university) this is both the position as a fellow or salaried member of the academic staff at a university and also the source of funding for the position. «Qualification fellowship» is used as a translation of the Norw. kvalifiseringsstipend, i.e., support to someone who is qualifying for a higher academic position.

grant (at university). Government grants mean financial support from the state to a university (Norw. statsstøtte). Individuals may receive an education grant (Norw. utdanningsstipend), a travel grant (Norw. reisestipend) or a research grant (Norw. forskningsstipend).

scholarship (used in sing.), means the achievements of a scholar, or schools of scholars. «The scholarship of Socrates and the ancient Greeks» is synonymous with eminent academic work (Norw. lærdom).

scholarship (used in sing. and plural) means financial support usually related to paying the fees for a place at a school or university (Norw. utdanningsstipend). Thus «the scholarships from Socrates» refer to funding that each EU/EEA country gives its exchange students in this European Commission programme.

stipend in BE, this means a sum of money (such as a salary) regularly paid to a clergyman. In AE, this usually means sum of money such as a scholarship paid to any category of student.


I correctly gave some Latin abbreviations in Corners 3/98 and 4/98. Although, the full forms are almost never used in English, one of NTNU's Latin scholars has kindly pointed out that correct full forms are:

et al. is an abbreviation of et alii (or possibly et aliae, if all the authors are female). Et alia (which I proposed), means «and other things».

op. cit. is short for opus citatum - or, opere citato in the ablative.

Enlightening English

Sjåk's tourist guide promises one of the wonders of the world: «malmrik furu» is translated as «ore-bearing pine».

Whoever is responsible for the quality control in NTNU's internal telephone directory (1997 edition) should avoid a Scotland for a while. As page 468 reveals, not only is the University of Edinburgh entered as «Edinburg», but more seriously, it has been moved to England.

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