Saturday, January 31, 2015

What Not to Say, #2

There's lots of reasons to worry about what we say today. 

What's wrong with that sentence?

Written out like this, it's not hard to figure out what is wrong with that sentence. Basic grammar: the word reasons above is a plural noun. So, it needs a plural verb. There's is not plural, but singular.

We have, then, a plural noun with a singular verb. Problem.

We would know when writing that sentence above to type out There are lots of reasons to worry about what we say today. 

But most of us don't say it that way. We say "There's lots of reasons." Listen to people speak and you'll hear this all the time--even on such supposedly erudite places as NPR or CNN. I wish I knew why. Twenty years ago this would have been considered uneducated by the kindest people and downright dumb by most others.

You might be thinking right now that this is just another way that the English language is evolving, so what's the big deal. Here's what I think: when the language evolves to make an improvement, I'm all for it. When it just changes without any benefit at all, I protest. I don't see any benefit to saying "there's diaries and letters" to my class when I could just as easily say "there are diaries and letters."

And if you say "there are diaries and letters," I doubt anyone would consider you a dork.

So, today's advice: just pluralize your verbs with plural nouns. It's not hard. And it will make your speech stand out in today's trendy-speak crowd.On a job interview or internship, it might make a difference.

1 comment:

Doug K said...

I applaud the point :) Sadly, though, the erudition of outlets such as NPR has been attacked as 'elitist' so often recently (ie., the recent NYT article about whether NPR was "too white"), that there appears to be a concerted effort to devolve language. Suggestions of better grammar or fuller use of language are now put through an economic, racial, and/or gendered lens, even in the classroom!