kind of qualities: plural or singular

Discussion in 'English Only' started by JungKim, Apr 3, 2013.

  1. JungKim Senior Member

    This is from

    "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?
  2. owlman5

    owlman5 Senior Member

    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?
  3. Franco-filly Senior Member

    Southern England
    English - Southern England
    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….?
  4. Jim2996 Senior Member

    Boston, MA
    American English
    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.
  5. lilison Senior Member

    English - Canadian
    it should read "make" not "makes" and "are" not "is".
  6. JungKim Senior Member

    (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?
  7. owlman5

    owlman5 Senior Member

    (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: Apr 4, 2013
  8. JungKim Senior Member

    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.
    Do you all agree with lilison that the verbs should be in the plural?
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2013
  9. owlman5

    owlman5 Senior Member

    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.
  10. Jim2996 Senior Member

    Boston, MA
    American English
    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.
  11. JungKim Senior Member

    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:
    How would you explain the use of the plural verb "are" instead of the singular counterpart "is"?
  12. lilison Senior Member

    English - Canadian
    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.
    This is the kind of qualities...
    Those are the kinds of qualities...
  13. Jim2996 Senior Member

    Boston, MA
    American English
    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: Apr 4, 2013
  14. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    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."
  15. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    English - British
    I would endorse all lucas-sp's comments except his PS.
    '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.
  16. JungKim Senior Member

    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.
  17. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    English - British
    That is indeed the case, in my observation at least.
    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.
  18. Myridon

    Myridon Senior Member

    English - US
    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.
  19. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
  20. JungKim Senior Member

    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.
  21. JungKim Senior Member

    Last edited: Apr 5, 2013

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