• Mark Allen

Parts of (a) sentence(s) sometimes must agree to disagree

Winston Churchill said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the other forms. Languages are produced democratically, and perhaps none remains more democratic than English. In other words, English is messy. It has conflicting rules about certain things and no rules where there really ought to be one.

If we had a language run by a benevolent oligarchy, we’d have a neutral third-person singular pronoun by now. We don’t. And for now, we just have to live with it.

Another case where our language fails us is in the awkwardness of linking an object to a plural subject, also known as subject-complement agreement. Should we refer to one object or multiple objects? This is a consistent question I get, and it always causes me to scratch my head.