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...and...was(?) Options
Teban
Posted: Thursday, July 28, 2011 5:18:17 PM
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I was browsing a book my kid's currently reading, and this clause caught my eye:

"...and she asked us where our lawn mower and all our equipment was."

Is "was" acceptable in this sense?

Thanks in advance.
thar
Posted: Thursday, July 28, 2011 5:39:16 PM

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it sounds right to me

I think it acts as a sort of distributed phrase - where our lawn mower was, and where all our equipment was. It sounds wrong with a plural, maybe because the two subjects are so far apart in the sentence, so the plural verb would be referring to a singular subject.

Because they are both singular subjects, the verb is in the singular. If one or the other had been plural, it would have been plural for that one and singular for the other

where the lawn mower and equipment were (closely linked, forming a plural group)
where the lawn mower and all the equipment was (too far apart, do not naturally form a plural group)
where the lawn mower and all the boxes of equipment were (plural second subject)
where the lawn mowers and all the equipment were (does not sound good- "the equipment were")
where the lawn mowers were and all the equipment was (clumsy, but sounds better)

that is purely a 'sounds right' analysis, not a grammatical one!
IMcRout
Posted: Thursday, July 28, 2011 5:45:46 PM
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It IS confusing, isn't it?

If I imagine the original question, it must have been,

'Where is your lawn-mower and all your equipment?'

and although I know it should be 'Where are ....', it doesn't really sound wrong to me.

The same goes for the indirect question. 'Was' sounds much better than 'were', but don't ask me why.
jmacann
Posted: Thursday, July 28, 2011 6:51:43 PM
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The singular really comprises both, as it is readily understood that it applies to both separately. Since the other choice is more awkward, the number stems from the latter.
Rico
Posted: Thursday, July 28, 2011 11:24:15 PM
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I've seen discussions of this question in linguistics texts. The explanations I've read say that although the sentence has a compound subject, and therefore would seem to require a plural verb (...and she asked where A and B were.), 'equipment' is an uncountable noun, and therefore singular. Because it is closer to the verb, its singularity can exert a greater force and the singular verb is acceptable.

The test would be to reverse the order of A and B.

"...and she asked us where our equipment and lawn mower were." OK
The uncountable/singular noun is farther from the verb and therefore weaker. The compound subject demands a plural verb.

"...and she asked us where our equipment and lawn mower was." Not OK in standard North American English. The singularity of the non-countable noun is not strong enough to overpower the plurality of the compound subject.

However, your sense that something is wrong is also valid.
"...and she asked us where our lawn mower and all our equipment were." is also acceptable.

It's language not mathematics. There can be more than one right answer.

Rich

DavidL
Posted: Friday, July 29, 2011 2:18:03 AM
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Look at this version:


"...and she asked us where our lawn mower and strimmer were."

The difference comes when we add 'all' to the sentence:
"...and she asked us where our lawn mower and all our equipment was."
l
With 'all', whether the verb is singular or plural depends on the noun after 'all'; so with the singuar 'equipment', the verb is singular - 'was'

compare
"...and she asked us where our lawn mower and all our tools were."


hrylav
Posted: Friday, July 29, 2011 5:05:16 AM
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I just wonder if it should be "and she asked us where our lawn mower and all our equipments were". Shouldn't it be equipments (plural) as we say 'all' to refer more than one equipment?
Diannelli
Posted: Friday, July 29, 2011 10:06:21 AM
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The word "equipment" always takes a singular verb like the word "furniture" and "information" because they are mass nouns . The word equipment cannot be pluralized unless you will make it like "pieces of equipment". That will be the time for it to become plural.
nowherenothere
Posted: Friday, July 29, 2011 10:53:55 AM
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Teban wrote:
I was browsing a book my kid's currently reading, and this clause caught my eye:

"...and she asked us where our lawn mower and all our equipment was."

Is "was" acceptable in this sense?

Thanks in advance.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~


"...she asked us where our lawn mower and all our equipment were located."

"...she asked us where our lawn mower was and all our equipment"


'lawn mower and all our equipment' - this construct forms a compound, there are two articles that require location

In formal writing, it's usually considered poorly formed grammar to end a sentence with an infinitive, or verb forms of 'to be', or to use split infinitives within a sentence. People do it all the time anyway. It's typical in daily conversation and dialog.


It could be changed to more active voice too (it's still past tense), something like this:


"She asked the location of our lawn mower and all our equipment." - somewhat awkward, but grammatically correct, 'us' is implied

"She asked us the location of our lawn mower and all our equipment."

"She asked us about the location of our lawn mower and all our equipment." - a little easier to read, possibly losing some context

"She asked us for the location of our lawn mower and all our equipment." - they could be located together or separately, doesn't matter

"She asked us for the locations of our lawn mower and all our equipment." - implies more than one location
Teban
Posted: Friday, July 29, 2011 5:24:27 PM
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Joined: 7/1/2011
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Neurons: 36
Location: United Kingdom
Thanks everyone for a truly elucidating discussion.
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