number of people who was/were attending

cbnemr

New Member
Turkish-Turkey
Hi,
in the sentence, "The number of people who was/were attending the meeting was/were too high" is the first option was or were? I know the second is "was" because of the subject "The number of" but in the first one, some teachers choose were and their reason is that "people" is the subject of the relative clause, not "the number of people" because then we would have to use which as the correct relative clause. My point on the other hand is that because of the rule "The number of+singular form of the verb" and that because relative clause has to be the subordinate clause of the main clause, it has to stick to the subject of the main clause (which is "The number of people; not people alone) therefore, making the use of relative clause who and the choice of were incorrect. Because, if we were to choose "people" and not "the number of people" as the subject of the relative clause, then we would have a problem with choosing the correct two same nouns as the ones that will be used with the relative clause structure. As we know, there are two sentences connected with relative pronoun and these two sentences then would be like this: "the number of people is high." and "people are attending the meeting." which makes the choice of two common nouns discordant. What do you think?
I hope i could explain myself clear enough and thank you for your answers.
 
  • The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I would say "the number of people who were attending the meeting was too high." "Who were attending the meeting" simply identifies the people. It was the number that was too high.
     

    lailinde

    Member
    English-American
    Well, it's definitely "The number of people who were attending the meeting was high." If you break the sentence apart, you essentially could get something like,

    "The number of people was high" and
    "People were attending the meeting." (As opposed to animals??) But hopefully you get the point!
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    I agree that it has to be "was too high", and that "was attending" would be wrong.
    But does no-one else find "who were attending" a bit unnatural? I would say "who attended".
     

    ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    I do, but the stricter moderators would say that we're going "off-topic", because we're not addressing 'subject-verb argeement', but the form of the past tense...
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I agree that it has to be "was too high", and that "was attending" would be wrong.
    But does no-one else find "who were attending" a bit unnatural? I would say "who attended".
    Not necessarily. You might use one or the other depending on the situation. If you were describing what happened during the course of the meeting it would be perfectly natural to use "who were attending."
     

    cbnemr

    New Member
    Turkish-Turkey
    Well, it's definitely "The number of people who were attending the meeting was high." If you break the sentence apart, you essentially could get something like,

    "The number of people was high" and
    "People were attending the meeting." (As opposed to animals??) But hopefully you get the point!
    Well I think I can equally argue with another imaginary sentence to prove my point; "my father's workers, which were also his animals, always sleep in their own pens."
    Break down version of these sentences should be like; "my father's workers (human feature) always sleep in their own pens (sleeping place for animals)" and "my father's workers (they) are also his animals (stated as animals)"

    I can attribute human features to animals and still use "who" instead of "which" or I can do it for any other non-living object. But the point here is, in essence, I have to choose same two components of two different sentences to be able to conjoin them and that I can't make one the other's subordinate clause without it and since i have no two similiar subjects in my original example, I have to choose the main clause's subject as the subject of both sentences. Is that assumption wrong? And if so, can you explain why? I may have to brush up on my syntax but as far as I know, relative clause is always the subordinate clause in the case of hierarchy of syntax and therefore, it needs the main clause's subject verb agreement.
     
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    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    ... as far as I know, relative clause is always the subordinate clause in the case of hierarchy of syntax and therefore, it needs the main clause's subject verb agreement.
    That's simply not the case, cbnemr.

    Compare, for example, I am looking at the man who is wearing a green tie.
    Main clause subject: I
    Main clause verb: am looking
    Relative clause subject: who {antecedent: the man}
    Relative clause verb: is wearing.

     

    ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    As Loob says, it depends (as does the choice of pronouns in the subordinate clause) on whether the subjects in the main and subordinate clauses are the same.
    "I saw/spoke to a man yesterday. That is he." -> "That's the man that/whom/ ---- I saw/spoke to yesterday."
    "A man saw/spoke to me yesterday. That is he." -> "That's the man that/who (no omission of pronoun possible) saw/spoke to me yesterday."
     

    cbnemr

    New Member
    Turkish-Turkey
    That's simply not the case, cbnemr.

    Compare, for example, I am looking at the man who is wearing a green tie.
    Main clause subject: I
    Main clause verb: am looking
    Relative clause subject: who {antecedent: the man}
    Relative clause verb: is wearing.
    Thank you for taking the time to write here. Firstly, I would like to point out something in your example: In your sentence, the two components that are the same are different parts of sentences. If we break it down to analyse it, we can see these two sentences:

    Main clause: "I am looking at a man." Subordinate clause: "A man is wearing a green tie."

    Now, in the first sentence, the component is in object position. As for the component in the second sentence, it is the subject of that sentence. In this case, the verb of the first sentence is not determined by "a man" but by "I" whereas in the second sentence, it is determined by the subject "A man" and when you join the subordinate clause with the main clause, you are able to use their own tenses and verbs since they aren't the common components of those two sentences, therefore resulting in a succesful movement and no subject-verb agreement problem.
    In my example, however, there aren't any same components. One of the subjects is "The number of people" and the other is "people". Doesn't this allow me to make any sentence without any form of same components? If I can assume that my original sentence is grammatically correct, then I can make a sentence without two common components?

    "My aunt, which was elected as the chair of the year, is a green party member" should be an acceptable sentence?

    Main clause : "My aunt is a green party member."
    Subordinate Clause: "This chair was elected as the chair of the year."

    Now, I know about the absurdness of my example but I gave it to prove a point which is that if we have to find two common components in two different sentences to successfully form a relative clause structure, how can my example be formed where there are no two same components and if my original sentence doesn't have common components but still a grammatically sound sentence, how is my last absurd example not correct?

    Note: I may have moved the subject from subject-verb agreement to something different, if so, I would like to move this discussion to somewhere else and continue there.
     
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    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    "My aunt, which who was elected as the chair of the year, is a green party member" should be an acceptable sentence?

    Main clause : "My aunt is a green party member."
    Subordinate Clause: "This chair was elected as the chair of the year."
    The two clauses are:
    Main clause : "My aunt is a green party member."
    Subordinate Clause: "This chair She was elected as the chair of the year."
     

    cbnemr

    New Member
    Turkish-Turkey
    The two clauses are:
    Main clause : "My aunt is a green party member."
    Subordinate Clause: "This chair She was elected as the chair of the year."
    Hi, and thank you for your reply.

    You didn't get what I tried to do there. I tried to join two completely different sentences together without any common denominator whatsoever because it is similar to my original example. I didn't use "chair" as "chairwoman" but as an object, made of wood.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I'm not sure I've followed the logic in your post 10, cbnemr.

    In respect of your orginal sentence, all I can do is repeat what you've been told before by others:
    - the main clause is The number of people ... was too high
    -
    the relative clause is who (antecedent: people) were attending the meeting.

    You might find it easier to break it as
    [The number of {people-who-were-attending-the-meeting}] was too high.
     
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    cbnemr

    New Member
    Turkish-Turkey
    Thank you all for your patient replies. I realized that I have to ask my sentence with regard to a different subject (semantics) before here in order to make myself clear. Sorry for taking up your time and thank you again.
     
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