Autonomy and strength...is/are?

Kelly B

Senior Member
USA English
Here's one from the French forum:

The autonomy and strength which is found in emotionally secure people is different from the autonomy and strength of insecure people.

Why did the author use is, not are? Was the author's usage correct (or at least defensible)?

My gut says ...are...are... ; another person suggested ...are...is... and now I have doubts.

Thanks!
 
  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The autonomy and strength which is found in emotionally secure people is are different from the autonomy and strength of insecure people.

    Well, without more radical surgery that would be my version, unless someone could persuade me that "autonomy and strength" represents a single concept.
    I think that would be quite difficult to do.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    panjandrum said:
    Well, without more radical surgery that would be my version, unless someone could persuade me that "autonomy and strength" represents a single concept.
    Well, what's not to agree with here? Except to replace "found in" with "of." But when I went to knock out that second "autonomy and strength," my ear wanted "that of" instead of "those of." Which of these sounds worse (a propitious way to begin, huh?).

    "The autonomy and strength of emotionally secure people is different from that of insecure people.

    "The autonomy and strength of emotionally secure people are different from those of insecure people."

    Awful, right? You could simply change "those" to "that" in the second sentence, but wouldn't the result imply a singular verb? And if pressed to decide, I'd have to opt for the first. In fact it sounds fine to me.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    It's such a relief to have got rid of one of the pair of "automony and strength".
    There was something ponderous about the repetition across the "is/are different from" that prompted my referral to the cosmetic surgeon. And a grand job he has made of it too.

    The autonomy and strength of emotionally secure people is different from that of insecure people.

    It is quite possible that the only reason there is a small clunk in the transition from plural first half to singular second is that I have been picking and prodding at the poor thing too much.

    I played with the idea that switching to "strength and autonomy" would help - but it didn't.

    I played with the notion of changing to "the quality of strength and autonomy", so that the first half became singular - but I had too many "of"s or else had to say "..in insecure people," which I could not warm to.

    So here we are with a good example of how the fluency of the sentence has to take precedence over the conventions of grammar.

    I could rationalise by telling myself I am persuaded that "autonomy and strength" is a single concept, but to be honest I prefer to celebrate the breach of convention:p

    And finally, would the plural version have been OK if we had been talking about physical things, not abstracts?
    The arms and legs of emotionally secure people are different from those of insecure people.
    Well, well, well - I do think it would :)
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Emotionally secure people and insecure people possess different forms of autonomy and strength.

    Really, though, are we trying to reword the sentence or critique the usage of "is" in the original sentence?

    From the way the question was formed, I had deduced that Kelly was not struggling with a way to express the idea but had seen/read the sentence somewhere.

    That said, I would agree with Panj that the structure is awkward unless "awkward and strength" is to be considered a single concept. Assuming the writer is competent in English, that's what I'd chalk it up to.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    panjandrum said:
    And finally, would the plural version have been OK if we had been talking about physical things, not abstracts?
    The arms and legs of emotionally secure people are different from those of insecure people.
    Well, well, well - I do think it would :)
    I think you've done it, you've winkled that last bit of nutmeat out of the shell.
     
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