Two million pounds was/were spent

azz

Senior Member
armenian
a. Two million pounds were spent for the construction of this dam.
b. Two million pounds was spent for the construction of this dam.


Which of the above sentences is correct?
 
  • Cath.S.

    Senior Member
    français de France
    I'd go for b)
    as the sum is considered as a whole, not as two million separate one pound notes.
    But let's wait for native speakers' anwers.
     

    lsp

    Senior Member
    NY
    US, English
    A in American English is the only possibility.

    Even though we say 2 million dollars is a lot of money, we say 2 million dollars were spent on the project.
     

    lsp

    Senior Member
    NY
    US, English
    egueule said:
    Google provides numerous counterexamples.
    All wrong, probably.
    Ah well. My opinion on using Google as a reference for usage is well documented. It can't filter out the people who speak poorly; all examples originally intended to illustrate improper usage also count; the messages of those who used a computer translator are included; the jokes; the attempts to emulate poor speakers or regional dialects get picked up with equal weight. All you get from Google is a number, not advice or validation or the option to rank results by grammatical accuracy. If you are willing to use Google as a grammar or even pop usage authority, you might as well rely on it as a translator too.
     

    Phryne

    Senior Member
    Argieland--Esp/Eng
    azz said:
    a. Two million pounds were spent for the construction of this dam.
    b. Two million pounds was spent for the construction of this dam.

    Which of the above sentences is correct?

    I agree with lsp, "two million pounds were spent..."

    But, hey, we probably speak the same dialect of English, if that means anything... :rolleyes:
     

    Cath.S.

    Senior Member
    français de France
    lsp said:
    Ah well. My opinion on using Google as a reference for usage is well documented. It can't filter out the people who speak poorly; all examples originally intended to illustrate improper usage also count; the messages of those who used a computer translator are included; the jokes; the attempts to emulate poor speakers or regional dialects get picked up with equal weight. All you get from Google is a number, not advice or validation or the option to rank results by grammatical accuracy. If you are willing to use Google as a grammar or even pop usage authority, you might as well rely on it as a translator too.
    Oh dear. Should I say "I found relevant webpages through Google" next time, lest people imagine I'm interested in quoting irrelevant results?
    Google can't filter out useless results, granted, but any person with a bit of intelligence and knowledge can.
    Thanks for sharing your opinion with us anyway.
     

    jacinta

    Senior Member
    USA English
    This is a very tricky question, one that will fill many pages, I'm sure. I use the singular but I guess I'll hear about it.

    Two million dollars is a lot of money! How are you going to spend it all?
    I'll spend it however I want!
    Two million dollars was spent overnight.
    Well, I hope they didn't spend it all in one place.
    Well, two million dollars was what they spent on the house.
     

    suzzzenn

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I think it can be either way.

    With some nouns of distance, money, or time, agreement depends on how the meaning is construed. If you are thinking about the whole unit you can use a singular verb and if you are thinking about the individual elements you can use a plural.

    Two million dollars is a lot of money. (unit)
    Two dollars are on the table (talking about the individual bills)
    Two months are missing from the calendar. (counting them)
    Two years isn't a long time. (unit)
    10 miles is too far to walk. (unit)
    10 miles are to be added to the freeway next year. (counting)

    To know which is correct "two milliion dollars was/were" you need to know what is in the mind of the speaker! Personally, I would vote with Jacinta and would use the singular, but I don't think either is "right".

    Saludos!
    Susan
    (with a little help from my favorite grammar text)
     

    AverageJoe

    Member
    U.S.A: American English
    azz said:
    a. Two million pounds were spent for the construction of this dam.
    b. Two million pounds was spent for the construction of this dam.


    Which of the above sentences is correct?

    In the context of the above sentences, the answer is two million pounds were spent...
     

    gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    lsp said:
    Ah well. My opinion on using Google as a reference for usage is well documented. It can't filter out the people who speak poorly; all examples originally intended to illustrate improper usage also count; the messages of those who used a computer translator are included; the jokes; the attempts to emulate poor speakers or regional dialects get picked up with equal weight. All you get from Google is a number, not advice or validation or the option to rank results by grammatical accuracy. If you are willing to use Google as a grammar or even pop usage authority, you might as well rely on it as a translator too.
    I agree that Google can give you wrong answers, but I find it infinitely more useful than a translation program.

    In addition, if you use it creatively and scan the results, you can judge which examples are NOT the result of illiterates. Example:

    http://www.london.gov.uk/view_press_release.jsp?releaseid=4514

    <LI>Almost one billion pounds was spent on film production in the capital
    <LI>Another a billion pounds was spent on TV, commercials, pop promos and videos

    There is an extra "a" above, probably a mistake in scanning, but I would not immediately jump to the conclusion that the writer is wrong. Also, the question was about "pounds", and BE often treats singular and plural nouns differently (the government, the family ARE).

    In this case I'd tend to keep an open mind. I'm not sure that one way or the other must be used.

    Gaer
     

    irishstu

    Senior Member
    N.Ireland (Eng, Sp, Fr)
    I would tend to use the singular for this, but the plural is not out of the question (for some sentences like in the original post, anyway).

    It all comes down to whether you see the subject as a single item or several items.

    Like Gaer mentions, "family" and "government" are other examples of words which can be construed as either singular or plural, depending on how you look at them. In BE, they tend to be considered singular.

    Yet another example...
    "I've got 2 million pounds to give away! Who wants it?"
    Would you substitute "them" for "it"? I wouldn't.
     

    gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    irishstu said:
    I would tend to use the singular for this, but the plural is not out of the question (for some sentences like in the original post, anyway).

    It all comes down to whether you see the subject as a single item or several items.

    Like Gaer mentions, "family" and "government" are other examples of words which can be construed as either singular or plural, depending on how you look at them. In BE, they tend to be considered singular.

    Yet another example...
    "I've got 2 million pounds to give away! Who wants it?"
    Would you substitute "them" for "it"? I wouldn't.
    I agree, but I'm a bit confused. I've never heard or seen "the government are" in the US. Only in the UK.

    From the Cambridge site:

    "The government is/are expected to announce its/their tax proposals today."
    "A new family has/have moved in next door."

    I believe the first sentence reflects AE usage too, since the Cambridge site often does that. You read an example sentence and assume both ways are equally used in the UK. I'd like more information from people in the UK about this.

    I'm also sure I've seen "family" used as plural in books written by fine UK authors. I've never seen it used other than in the singular form by US authors.

    At any rate, I think that an amount of money may always be considered just that—an amount.

    "Two million pounds were spent for the construction of this dam, which were too much money." :cross:

    This is why I say night after night that people answer questions of usage too quickly! ;)

    Gaer
     

    irishstu

    Senior Member
    N.Ireland (Eng, Sp, Fr)
    gaer said:
    I agree, but I'm a bit confused. I've never heard or seen "the government are" in the US. Only in the UK.

    From the Cambridge site:

    "The government is/are expected to announce its/their tax proposals today."
    "A new family has/have moved in next door."

    Gaer

    I would say that for both family and government, I have used both the singular and the plural, depending on what I am trying to say. However, in general I use the singular.

    How's this for a mix?

    "This government is the worst we've had for ages. They're all crooks."
     

    gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    irishstu said:
    I would say that for both family and government, I have used both the singular and the plural, depending on what I am trying to say. However, in general I use the singular.

    How's this for a mix?

    "This government is the worst we've had for ages. They're all crooks."
    Interesting, but that may be like:

    Everyone came to my party. But they all left before midnight.

    I was taught that family is only singular. That rule was confirmed by a teacher I respect, but this has to do with AE. This is why I think the BE rule is different. And as I said, you will never here "the government are" here.

    I can't think of other differences that "hit me between the eyes" when I read British authors, but there are quite a few that instantly remind me that I am reading text that is not from an American author. I find these differences extremely interesting. :)

    Gaer
     

    raymondaliasapollyon

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    [Threads have been merged at this point. DonnyB - moderator]

    Hi,

    I have been repeatedly told that "two million dollars" takes a plural verb, as in "Two million dollars have been spent on infrastructure."
    How about the following?

    $50,000 has/have been credited to your account.

    I'd appreciate your help.
     
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    bigheadlouis

    Senior Member
    English-US, Spanish - Spain
    I think you'll hear both in practice, but, at least in American English, the standard is that amounts of money are accompanied by singular verbs. See Purdue OWL's guide on this (Point 7).

    The subtext is that "an amount of $50,000 has been credited to your account." You're focusing on the sum and not the dollars themselves. I might say "two million dollars have been spent on infrastructure" if I wanted to focus on the dollars themselves. Like if you thought I said euros and I wanted to clarify that currency was dollars.
     

    raymondaliasapollyon

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    But I was told of the following contrast:

    One million dollars was spent on infrastructure.
    Two million dollars were spent on infrastructure.

    The contrast is hard to understand if the use of a plural verb requires us to focus on the dollars themselves. If there's such a focus, the contrast would not stand and people would use "were" uniformly in both sentences.
     

    bigheadlouis

    Senior Member
    English-US, Spanish - Spain
    My point is that when it comes to writing, at least, it should be "two million dollars was spent" because we're referring to the sum. A quick Google search of the New York Times articles suggests the newspaper uses the singular for exact quantities and the plural only for uncountable units ("millions of dollars were spent").

    This entry for 'million' in the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary says the singular should always be used in this case, too:
    "Always use a plural verb with million or millions, except when an amount of money is mentioned: Four million (people) were affected. • Two million (pounds) was withdrawn from the account."

    However, like I said, plural verbs are widely used (I, myself, switch between them when speaking).
     
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    raymondaliasapollyon

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Oxford doesn't say to always use singular verbs with "million" in reference to sums of money. It is saying that it is in general necessary to use plural verbs with "million" or "millions," with one exception. However, the exceptional clause ("except when an amount of money is mentioned ") does not mean we should always use singular verbs when talking about money. All we can infer is that we do not always use plural verbs when referring to money.
     

    bigheadlouis

    Senior Member
    English-US, Spanish - Spain
    Fair enough, it doesn't say always. :oops: Again, both are used, but those and other style guides suggest the use of singular verbs.
    One million dollars was spent on infrastructure.
    Two million dollars were spent on infrastructure.

    The contrast is hard to understand if the use of a plural verb requires us to focus on the dollars themselves. If there's such a focus, the contrast would not stand and people would use "were" uniformly in both sentences.
    You could use the plural verb for both if you did want to focus on the dollars. I don't know why this distinction was made here. Maybe because 'one' is singular and 'two' is plural. Also, you can't always use the plural verb for two million dollars. Even if you'd usually use the plural, "two million dollars were a lot of money" sounds wrong.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    There's certainly no reason to distinguish one million from two million. They're both numbers greater than one, but which are often given singular agreement when they refer to amounts. Their use as numbers usually does not distinguish a singular noun 'million' from a plural 'millions', though there are structures where this is relevant.
     

    raymondaliasapollyon

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    I guess post #17 onwards is the source of my confusion.

    Anyway, are both plural and singular verbs correct in the following?

    One million dollars as a lump sum was/were spent on infrastructure.
    One million dollars in the form of multiple of checks was/were spent on infrastructure.
     
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    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Where did you see it?

    Evidently the writer was thinking in terms of five million individual dollars.

    Another writer might have considered it as a singular amount of money, and said used 'has'.
     
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