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Thread: kind of qualities: plural or singular

  1. #1
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    kind of qualities: plural or singular

    This is from Answers.com:

    "What kind of qualities does Odysseus have that make him a good leader?

    The kind of qualities Odysseus has that makes him a good leader is that he is strong, brave, and the brains to get him through many things and also to get back his kingdom."

    The question treats "kind of qualities" as plural, whereas the answer singular.

    Which one is correct?

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    Re: kind of qualities: plural or singular

    If I were writing this question, I'd pluralize "kind" and use the plural "make": What kinds of qualities does Odysseus have that make him a good leader?

    That said, I don't think "kinds" adds anything meaningful to the question. I prefer this version: What qualities does Odysseus have that make him a good leader?
    ...It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. W. Shakespeare

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    Re: kind of qualities: plural or singular

    The difference is the use of the word “does” from the verb “Do”
    The Singular form can be “He does have” or “He has
    So the original question could also have been written as “What qualities has Odysseus….?

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    Re: kind of qualities: plural or singular

    There is a lot of poorly written English on the internet. My improvement:

    What qualities did Odysseus have that made him a good leader?

    Odysseus is long dead. It should be in the past tense.

    "What kind ...?" asks for a singular answer. The answer is the leadership kind. That was easy, because I answered what was written and not what was meant.

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    Re: kind of qualities: plural or singular

    it should read "make" not "makes" and "are" not "is".

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    Re: kind of qualities: plural or singular

    Quote Originally Posted by owlman5 View Post
    If I were writing this question, I'd pluralize "kind" and use the plural "make": What kinds of qualities does Odysseus have that make him a good leader?

    That said, I don't think "kinds" adds anything meaningful to the question. I prefer this version: What qualities does Odysseus have that make him a good leader?
    (1) Is it always better to have the same number for "kind" and the noun followed by "of"?

    (2) Is it always better to do without "kind(s) of" in the "what kind(s) of + noun" construction?

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    Re: kind of qualities: plural or singular

    (1) No. Here's a normal sentence that violates that rule: What kind of people are they?
    (2) I don't think so. What kinds of food do you prefer? You could eliminate "kinds", but I don't see any real advantage in doing so: Which foods do you prefer?


    I'm sorry if my answers seem contradictory or arbitrary, Jung Kim. I rely on those nebulous things, my instincts, when I answer language questions here in the forum. If you'd like to develop your own instincts regarding the use of "kind(s) of ___", I recommend that you search COCA* or any other large language corpus. Look for "kind of" and note how the construction is used in the sentences of competent writers. You'll probably find some variation there.

    *Corpus of Contemporary American English
    Last edited by owlman5; 4th April 2013 at 3:52 AM.
    ...It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. W. Shakespeare

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    Re: kind of qualities: plural or singular

    Thanks, first of all, owlman5, for your information on COCA, which I find very helpful.
    Helpful as it may be, however, I believe that it can hardly replace this forum and "those nebulous things."

    Now going back to the question in the OP, the question has not clearly been answered so far in this thread, except for post #5, where lilison said it's in the plural.

    So let me make the original question an exam question--albeit perhaps a "poorly written" exam question--that needs to be answered. I've changed Odysseus to Obama so that we can keep the present tense intact.
    [Question]: Please select the best verb form in the following sentences:

    What kind of qualities does Obama have that (makes/make) him a good leader?

    The kind of qualities Obama has that (makes/make) him a good leader (is/are) that he is strong, brave, and the brains to get him through many things and also to get back his nation.
    Do you all agree with lilison that the verbs should be in the plural?
    Last edited by JungKim; 4th April 2013 at 12:59 PM. Reason: The misstatements about post #5 now stand corrected and marked red.

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    Re: kind of qualities: plural or singular

    Lilison suggested that we use "make", not "makes"; "are", not "is". Those are verbs in the plural, Jung Kim: The kind of qualities Obama has that make him a good leader are that he is strong, brave, and the brains to get him through many things and also to get back his nation. ???

    Following lilison's advice is easier here: What kind of qualities does Obama have that make him a good leader?

    From my perspective, all bets are off when you try to apply rules of grammar to a crappy sentence. In a situation like this, you can use whichever verb forms suit your fancy. After all, you're not going to end up with a decent result anyhow, so you might as well do what you feel like doing.
    ...It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. W. Shakespeare

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    Re: kind of qualities: plural or singular

    Quote Originally Posted by JungKim View Post
    Do you all agree with lilison that the verbs should be in the plural?
    Only if you change the subjects to plural!
    Having subject and verb match is basic English grammar.

    What kind ... makes ...?
    The kind ... that makes ... is ....

    Adding extra things, even prepositional phrases with plural nouns in them, doesn't change the subject, kind, to plural.

    If you start with a singular subject and, when you get to the verb, want to use a plural verb, you should go back and change your subject.

    If the subject and the verb don't match, it is bad grammar.
    You will find thought, that with enough 'extra junk,' it will 'slip' pass most people.
    People tend to react to what you mean, not your grammar.

    Often, when editing, the best solution is a re-write.

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    Re: kind of qualities: plural or singular

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim2996 View Post
    Only if you change the subjects to plural!
    Having subject and verb match is basic English grammar.

    What kind ... makes ...?
    The kind ... that makes ... is ....

    Adding extra things, even prepositional phrases with plural nouns in them, doesn't change the subject, kind, to plural.

    If you start with a singular subject and, when you get to the verb, want to use a plural verb, you should go back and change your subject.

    If the subject and the verb don't match, it is bad grammar.
    You will find thought, that with enough 'extra junk,' it will 'slip' pass most people.
    People tend to react to what you mean, not your grammar.

    Often, when editing, the best solution is a re-write.
    I hope that it's that simple, the singular subject "kind" mandating a singular verb.
    I'm afraid, however, it's not that simple as you claim it is.

    Here's a quote from MSNBC:
    In any event, there’s no way to find out if Liptak’s theory is right, because of the Court’s secrecy. These kind of questions are only answered decades later, with the release of justices’ personal archives. Or as Liptak put it on Twitter this weekend, “we’ll know if I’m right in 50 years.”
    How would you explain the use of the plural verb "are" instead of the singular counterpart "is"?

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    Re: kind of qualities: plural or singular

    Sorry folks, but put your grammar books away and listen to this phrase: The kind of qualities that makes bla bla bla... It sounds terribly wrong. You must conjugate "qualities" and not "kind".
    Those (pl) are precisely the kind (sing) of qualities (pl) I am looking for in a man.
    NOT
    This is the kind of qualities...
    NOT
    Those are the kinds of qualities...

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    Re: kind of qualities: plural or singular

    I appreciate good usage, but I'm not a purist. Languages change, and 'mistakes' can become the new normal.

    If kind is used to mean kinds, as it is in "These kind ..." —and if it is done often enough—they one day it will be in the dictionary: 5) used to represent the plural, kinds 6) useless filler words kind of ways. After all, the adjective good is now listed as an adverb meaning well.

    My explanation is that it is either a easy-to-make mistake (and one that few will notice) or a new meaning evolving. Take your pick.

    I'm not out to change the world. I only suggest: Add the s or edit out "kind of"

    In your favor, I will mention that there are other (collective?) nouns such as company, army, and class (of students) that are singular in form but people often 'feel' or take or use as singular. It's easy to do when the subject and verb aren't close.
    "The army is amassing. They are marching." (Instead of "It is marching.) This may even be BrE usage. (I don't know.)
    "The army has amassed and are marching" is a subtle error (or not?).

    To me, the answer to "What kind of qualities is important to you?" is something like "Leadership" or "Physical" or "Intellectual,"—It is some one kind. Or, I will realize that what you meant to ask was "What qualities are important to you? and answer that question.

    Ignore what I say, listen to what I mean. (People do)
    Damn the grammar books, full speed ahead. (Many grammar books are too limiting.)
    These ideas actually work well in everyday speech and even unedited writing.

    It is not easy to write well. I'm still trying. I invite you all to join me. But I warn you: It takes time, and if the typos don't get you the grammar will. That is why there is editing, and why good editing takes so long. Is it worth the time?
    Last edited by Jim2996; 4th April 2013 at 3:54 PM.

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    Re: kind of qualities: plural or singular

    A few things:

    1. Present tense is used for discussing works of literature; if we aren't talking about the historical Odysseus but instead discussing The Odyssey then we would more naturally use present tense.

    2. We've discussed these "singulars felt as plurals" before. There are many grammatically singular words in English that are treated as plural for conjugation purposes, because they are felt as semantically plural. This is actually correct in many situations (try it with "a lot of"). However, American English is characterized as being more resistant to this phenomenon than other varieties of English. And there are indeed borderline cases where both possibilities are correct ("A dozen of your best eggs is what I would like," "A dozen of the greatest living directors are collaborating on a film epic").

    3. The people who write "This is a bad question" are correct, for the reasons Jim points out in #13. Look what the answers would be if we took the sentence literally:

    What kind of qualities does Odysseus have? = the question is looking for a "kind of qualities," a type of variety of quality. An answer could be "good qualities" or "physical qualities."
    What kinds of qualities does Odysseus have? = here we just want more than one genre of quality. So an answer would be "mental qualities and physical qualities."
    What qualities does Odysseus have? = here we ask what we really mean to ask. The answer is supposed to be "Quick wits and persuasiveness," and this is the only question that will return that answer.

    So, really there are two things:

    A) In many situations with grammatically singular semantically plural phrases ("a load of," "a ton of") both singular and plural verbs are possible
    B) But here we have "kind of." "Kind of" does not introduce a plural grouping. Therefore we need either "kinds of" or no phrase.

    PS The MSNBC quote should obviously also be "kinds of." It's a typo. No English speaker would ever put a plural "these" next to a singular "kind."

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    Re: kind of qualities: plural or singular

    I would endorse all lucas-sp's comments except his PS.
    In any event, there’s no way to find out if Liptak’s theory is right, because of the Court’s secrecy. These kind of questions are only answered decades later, with the release of justices’ personal archives. Or as Liptak put it on Twitter this weekend, “we’ll know if I’m right in 50 years.”
    'These kind of questions are only answered decades later' is a characteristic error of spoken English, heard every day of the week.
    In my opinion, the real meaning here is 'Questions of this kind are only answered decades later' and that is what I would advise anyone to say.

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    Re: kind of qualities: plural or singular

    I don't agree that the MSNBC quote is a typo in its construction of "these kind of".

    In the Google News, "these kind of" returns almost 5000 hits, whereas "these kinds of" 14,000.
    "Those kind of" and "those kinds of" yield 3,710 and 7,500 hits, respectively.

    So it seems to me that, however illogical these may sound, there's clear usages of these seemingly mismatched phrases.

    Also, "of this kind" returns 7,270 hits in the Google News. Considering that whatever noun coming right before "of this kind" can be both singular and plural, whereas "these kind of" is most likely followed by a plural noun, it might even be the case that more native speakers tend to use "these kind of + a plural noun" rather than "a plural noun + of this kind".

    Given this usage, it's rather far-fetched to say the MSNBC construction is an error per se.

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    Re: kind of qualities: plural or singular

    Quote Originally Posted by JungKim View Post
    it might even be the case that more native speakers tend to use "these kind of + a plural noun" rather than "a plural noun + of this kind".
    That is indeed the case, in my observation at least.
    Given this usage, it's rather far-fetched to say the MSNBC construction is an error per se.
    We have to call it an error, in my view, or we give up the distinction between singular and plural.

    The fact that a lot of people make an error does not stop it being an error. We have to draw a line somewhere.

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    Re: kind of qualities: plural or singular

    Quote Originally Posted by JungKim View Post
    In the Google News, "these kind of" returns almost 5000 hits, whereas "these kinds of" 14,000.
    Many of these usages on Google News are inside direct quotes so these counts are not entirely useful if we're allowing that people often say this by accident but they wouldn't leave it in an edited text because they would leave it in a direct quote.

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    Re: kind of qualities: plural or singular

    It takes two to tangle.

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    Re: kind of qualities: plural or singular

    Quote Originally Posted by Myridon View Post
    Many of these usages on Google News are inside direct quotes so these counts are not entirely useful if we're allowing that people often say this by accident but they wouldn't leave it in an edited text because they would leave it in a direct quote.
    You're right in that most of the 4,670 "these kind of" hits are from direct quotes.
    But I for one can hardly believe that literally thousands of people (hopefully mostly native speakers) actually did "say this by accident." Even if they did it by accident, the sheer number of people would have made a usage out of it.

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