a bishop and a knight

azz

Senior Member
armenian

a. Four grains of this substance are enough. Five grains is too much.
b. Four grains of this substance is enough. Five grains is too much.


c. A bishop and a knight are stronger than a rook.
d. A bishop and a knight is stronger than a rook.


Which of the above sentences are grammatical?

It seems to me that (b) is correct and (a) is not. We are talking about a quantity here.
It seems to me that (c) is correct and (d) is not, but the problem is that (c) is ambiguous. The intended meaning is that 'having a bishop and a knight is better than having a rook' but one might interpret (c) to mean that a bishop and a rook are each stronger than a rook.

Many thanks.
 
  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    It seems to me that (b) is correct and (a) is not. We are talking about a quantity here.
    I agree. Apart from anything else, sentence (a) is inconsistent with "are"/"is".

    I prefer (c) over (d). There is nothing wrong with the ambiguity in (c) - in English, ambiguity is the norm and we rely on context to work out the intended meaning - but if the writer felt the possibility of misunderstanding was too great, he or she might opt for (d) instead.

    Edit: The repeated article in (d) is wrong as this forces the verb to be plural. If you do want to use (d) then it should be "a bishop and knight is...", but there are better ways of writing it, such as "one bishop with a knight is...".

    Also for (a) and (b), the use of "is" requires "grains" to be a unit of measurement (about 65 milligrams), not that the substance is granular (like rice) and that "four grains" is four individual granules or grains.
     
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