Years of addiction to computer games has/have undermined ...

mcmay

Senior Member
Chinese
Hi, friends. I'm not quite sure whether I should use 'has' or 'have' in such a context as the sentence "Years of addiction to computer games has/have undermined his health to an enormous degree.". Is the subject of the sentence "years" or "addiction"?
Thank you!
 
  • perpend

    Banned
    American English
    "Years" is the subject.

    I would use "have".

    In speech sometimes you hear both versions (has/have).
     

    Jim2996

    Senior Member
    American English
    Question1: What is it that undermined his health? I need a one word answer.

    Question2: There are three nouns before the (one) verb. There are also two prepositions, the ofs. What goes with what?

    If you give my questions a try, you will probably figure it out.

    Let me know the results.
     

    mcmay

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thank you, perpend, for your prompt response. Judging from the form of the subject body "years of addiction to computer games", the subject should be "years" with "of addiction to computer games" as its determiner. But looking from the perspective of semantics, "addiction (to computer games)" should be the agent that has conducted the action of undermining his health. Maybe that's why we may hear both "has" and "have“ used by people.
     

    mcmay

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Question1: What is it that undermined his health? I need a one word answer.

    Question2: There are three nouns before the (one) verb. There are also two prepositions, the ofs. What goes with what?

    If you give my questions a try, you will probably figure it out.

    Let me know the results.
    Thanks, Jim2996, for your heuristic way of illuminating this puzzle for me. As I said in my reply to perpend's reponse to my thread, semantically speaking it is "addiction" that has undermined his health. In the body of the subject, there are two prepositions, "of" and "to". As part of the phrase "addiction to computer games", the preposition "to" has no effect on the matter of deciding on the subject of the sentence. It is "of" that makes the matter complicated. The phrase after "of", i.e., ”addiction to computer games", is in its accusative while the phrase before "of", i.e., "years" is in its nominative. This is the apparent fact I can perceive from the perspective of the syntactic form of the sentence. The problem now is that whether we should decide on the subject of the sentence from the semantic or the syntactic point of view.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Are you taking a course on grammar or a course on semantics? Would you like for your sentence to be grammatically correct and have everyone agree that its correct or would you like for it to be semantically correct so a few intellectuals will appreciate how clever you are (after they correct your grammar, of course)? :)
     

    mcmay

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thank you, Myridon, for your advice. But I'm afraid neither of your assumptions about my purpose of asking about this matter is true. I asked because I really don't know whether I should use "has" or "have" in that sentence.
     

    Jim2996

    Senior Member
    American English
    If you 'feel' that addiction is what is doing the action, then it should be the subject.
    Addiction to computer games, after many years, has undermined ....

    Other people might think that the computer games are doing the undermining
    After years of addiction, computer games have undermined ....

    I have no problem with the years doing some action:
    The years have made him old.

    You are writing this, right? It is your choice.

    By the way, the easy way to find the subject is to just start removing prepositional phrases.
     
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