PDA

View Full Version : Grammar Question



The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-10, 05:30 PM
Okay, just a quick little question. Which is proper? Referring to the United States as a singular noun (i.e. The United States is going to do something) or as a plural noun (i.e. The United States are going to do something)? I have a feeling both are okay, but it has been bugging me recently.

Swift
2006-Jan-10, 05:32 PM
I vote singular, it sounds better to me. The US is a single country.
Gillianren, oh Gillianren, where are you? ;)

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-10, 05:35 PM
Now how did you know I was hoping for her to stop by? ;)

Nowhere Man
2006-Jan-10, 05:47 PM
I recall from The Civil War (that big multipart show by Ken Burns), historian Shelby Foote (I think it was) saying something along the lines of, "Before the war, people said 'The United States are...', but after, they said 'The United States is...'" Emphasizing the new-felt unity, or something.

I lean toward is myself. There is a difference between American and British English, in which group nouns are plural in British and singular in American: The Who are, the Fifth Light Infantry are, etc. But if the group noun is plural, then American tends toward the plural as well: The Beatles are.

"The United States" may be a special exception to this general rule.

Fred

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-10, 05:50 PM
There is a difference between American and British English

Yep. And the middle ground is inhabited by Canadian English. The plural group noun sounds more correct to me, though.

Kristophe
2006-Jan-10, 05:51 PM
There's a hidden noun in the phrase "The United States is going to ____". The word "government" is implied. "The Government of the United States of America is going to _____."

N C More
2006-Jan-10, 05:52 PM
The correct answer is, 'is'. The United States is a singular noun. If one were to refer to 'several states', that would be plural. Example: Several states are going to be in the storm's path. The United States is a large country.

Now, how about this one from Star Trek. The Borg (are or is) coming into our range. Which one is correct? Hint: the Borg collective.

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-10, 05:53 PM
There's a hidden noun in the phrase "The United States is going to ____". The word "government" is implied. "The Government of the United States of America is going to _____."

Alright, bad example. How about the following?

"The United States is/are just great!"

In this I'm referring to the country, not the government.


The correct answer is, 'is'. The United States is a singular noun. If one were to refer to 'several states', that would be plural. Example: Several states are going to be in the storm's path. The United States is a large country.

See, I'm not so sure. The United States of America seems plural to me. The states themselves are, as a whole, the United States of America. In the same way, the phrase "the Americas" is plural.

HenrikOlsen
2006-Jan-10, 06:10 PM
Looking in, I'd go for the plural when talking about the country and singular when implying the government.

N C More
2006-Jan-10, 06:19 PM
Take a look here (http://www.gocsm.net/sevas/esl/reviewlesson/agree3a.html). The collective nature of a country is the reason why a country is viewed in a singular manner. I suppose this is a point of grammar that can be argued. However, I teach English as a second language and the programs that we use (Rosetta Stone, Ellis, Lexia) take the position that 'The United States' is singular.

Thomas(believer)
2006-Jan-10, 06:23 PM
Maybe this is an interesting read:

http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/002663.html

NEOWatcher
2006-Jan-10, 06:30 PM
Maybe this is an interesting read:

http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/002663.html
You're right. It does re-inforce my thinking. United States as a country (is). A collection of states (are).
The Civil war pointed out that some states were more united than others (are). The war united them all as one country (is).

Jeff Root
2006-Jan-10, 06:42 PM
"The United States is/are just great!"

In this I'm referring to the country, not the government.
Try switching is/are in these:

The United States is a great country.
The United States of Mexico is a pretty good country, too.
The United States is the country I live in.
The northern states are cold and icy.
The southern states are hot and humid.

But I think this has ambiguous number:

The United States should remain united.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

JohnD
2006-Jan-10, 07:22 PM
Goodness me! Do you not have civics classes in American schools? This is not a grammar question; it is one of politics and constitution.

The United States of America is a federation of states. The individual states retain many powers of their own, but in general delegate those to do with foreign and other policies to the federal government. There is one federal government, but fifty two state governments. So it depends what the USA does.
EG
If it is a war, the Uited States is going to fight.
If it is domestic, the United States are going to be introducing more energy saving initiatives (for instance).

Does that help?

John

Gillianren
2006-Jan-10, 07:33 PM
I vote singular, it sounds better to me. The US is a single country.
Gillianren, oh Gillianren, where are you? ;)

Sleeping! But I'm here now, really. (Geez, just because I have no life, you people expect me to be here 24 hours a day!)

I'm with Shelby Foote on this one, kids. It is not, in fact, exclusively a civics question (and even if it is in part, civics says nothing about subject-verb agreement!). However, the feeling of whether "The United States" takes a singular or plural verb depends a great deal on how one is referring to the US.

If one means "the government of the United States," that's going to be a singular verb, because there is one government over all the United States. (State and local governments exist a-plenty, of course, but are not referred to as the government of the United States.) However, I'm sure we can all think of instances, again largely antebellum, wherein "the United States" can be intended to be plural. I'd have to look it up, but I'm reasonably sure examples may appear in the Constitution. (Sort of. To the best of my knowledge, the phrase itself does not. However, similar phraseology may.)

Can I just say that I appreciate the attempt at subject-verb agreement? When I was a junior in college, a bunch of freshman from the Big Tower of Freshmen across the courtyard from us vandalized our dorm, and one of the biggest irritations of it was a sign left in many places, including my door, that said, "We have proof that C-Dorm vote Republican." I added an "s" to the end of "vote" and left it there, because of course they didn't, but it was a good grammar lesson.

NEOWatcher
2006-Jan-10, 07:41 PM
Goodness me! Do you not have civics classes in American schools? This is not a grammar question; it is one of politics and constitution.

The United States of America is a federation of states. The individual states retain many powers of their own, but in general delegate those to do with foreign and other policies to the federal government. There is one federal government, but fifty two state governments. So it depends what the USA does.
EG
If it is a war, the Uited States is going to fight.
If it is domestic, the United States are going to be introducing more energy saving initiatives (for instance).

Does that help?

John
Did I miss something? :eh:

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-10, 07:43 PM
So, and correct me if I'm wrong, there are two schools of thought for determining the form that the United States takes when it is an ambiguous case (i.e., not one that should clearly be singular or plural).

The first is that it should be singular because that's the way it's done. Civil War and all that.

The second is that it should be plural because groupings in British English tend to be made plural, also just because.

So, both singular and plural forms are valid, but the singular form in prevalent in the US while the plural form is prevalent in the UK and (probably) English-speaking Commonwealth nations?

SeanF
2006-Jan-10, 08:02 PM
I'd have to look it up, but I'm reasonably sure examples may appear in the Constitution. (Sort of. To the best of my knowledge, the phrase itself does not. However, similar phraseology may.)
Well, of course it appears there. "We the people of the United States of America..." :)

Article III, Section 2, refers to "Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party." However, Section 3 of that same Article says, "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies"

Amendment XIII declares that slavery shall not "exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

There are also numerous places that use verbiage along the lines of "The United States or any State"...

Dr Nigel
2006-Jan-10, 08:16 PM
Well, if anyone wants to read my twopenn'orth, here it is:

The phrase "the United States" is a reference to either a (singular) government or to a (singular) country (i.e. it is a contraction of "the United States of America"). I would say, in most uses, it should take a singular verb. If you are referring to a set of states that happen to be united on some topic, you would use the same phrase but not capitalised, and hence this meaning would require a plural verb.

And, yes, I sometimes use the Oxford comma. It doesn't make me a bad person.

Nowhere Man, although many British speakers use a plural verb for a singular noun, there are some Brits who know about subject-verb agreement. The Who was a very successful band. The Beatles were even more so.

Carnifex
2006-Jan-10, 08:28 PM
If you are refering to United States of America as a group of people (EDIT: or states), you use plural. If you are refering to United States of America as a single entity, you use singular. That's how I was taught in the school, when I was studying English as my second language. EDIT: Same applies to music bands, police, army, sport teams etc.

P.S. Isn't it "referring" or "reffering"? I'm lost with double letters here :eh:

Thomas(believer)
2006-Jan-10, 11:24 PM
What does an official english dictionary say about this?

Lance
2006-Jan-10, 11:48 PM
What does an official english dictionary say about this?
It says (http://www.merriam-webster.com/cgi-bin/dictionary-tb?book=Dictionary&va=reffering):


Suggestions for reffering:
1. referring (http://www.merriam-webster.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?va=referring)

Carnifex
2006-Jan-11, 12:08 AM
Thank you very much indeed :)

Trebuchet
2006-Jan-11, 12:22 AM
Did I miss something? :eh:

Referring to the fifty-two state governments, I presume. As far as I know, it's still only 50! :dance:

There are other countries which have plural names if you spell them out in full. Mexico (formally the United States of Mexico, I believe) has been mentioned. I think the UK is formally "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" or some such. But I wouldn't say "The UK are..."

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-11, 12:23 AM
No, but you could say "The United Kingdoms are..."

turbo-1
2006-Jan-11, 12:42 AM
As a Mainer, and not all that happy with the direction that the Federal government is taking us (thank you, lobbyists with billions of dollars for making sure that all I get is form letters from my representatives, while you get legislation!) I vote for the plural when describing popular movements that the majority of us are firmly behind, and the singular (with the inclusion of the word "government") when describing things that most of us disagree with. Polls show that most US citizens are unhappy with the administration's actions WRT Iraq and most of them are unhappy with the administration's decision to spy on us without warrants. Orwell was a visionary.

Gillianren
2006-Jan-11, 12:48 AM
Well, of course it appears there. "We the people of the United States of America..." :)

Article III, Section 2, refers to "Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party." However, Section 3 of that same Article says, "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies"

Amendment XIII declares that slavery shall not "exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

There are also numerous places that use verbiage along the lines of "The United States or any State"...

Well, I sit corrected. Thank you. (I like the Oxford comma. It adds clarity. And for those who don't, isn't an Oxford comma better than a greengrocers' apostrophe any day?)

01101001
2006-Jan-11, 01:54 AM
When in doubt, ask the French (and francophones everywhere).

Google "les etats unis sont" (are): about 324,000 hits.

Google "les etats unis est" (is): about 61,500 hits.

They can't agree either. Forget it.

Fortunate
2006-Jan-11, 02:14 AM
I vote for "singular." On the other hand, I have heard the phrase "these United States."

Gillianren
2006-Jan-11, 03:02 AM
It's all down to context, as so many things are. I could quite easily frame sentences in which the singular and the plural would each be correct. For example, "these United States"--well, they are, aren't they? (I have to say, though, that I wouldn't capitalize it, myself, because I wouldn't consider that phrase to be a proper noun. Or did you guys want me to keep delving into grammar nerddom?)

Swift
2006-Jan-11, 03:46 AM
Or did you guys want me to keep delving into grammar nerddom?)
Sure, and you could start with whether "nerddom" is a word. ;)

Halcyon Dayz
2006-Jan-11, 03:47 AM
Sometimes those things are just historical leftovers.
None of The Netherlands has been autonomous for centuries.
Yet the plural form is still used in English.
We ourselves use a abbreviated singular version, Nederland.

Gillianren
2006-Jan-11, 05:00 AM
Sure, and you could start with whether "nerddom" is a word. ;)

Yeah, I probably should have hyphenated. However, since I, and I suspect others, pronounce both d's (didn't we have that debate elsewhere?), it's obvious that there should be two of 'em. I don't think "nerdiness" quite applies here, since that's always struck me as a sociological term--"having the attributes of a nerd," rather than "the state of being a nerd." I could also point out that both Shakespeare and Lewis Carroll made up words (and, yes, one of Lewis Carroll's is still in use today--"chortle"), so I can, too.

I can keep going, you know. I can make all you science types feel the pain I feel when a post consists largely of numbers and Greek letters, and the only words I actually understand in it are "the" and "and"! I can go on all night! Bwa ha ha!

Pant pant pant.

Okay, I'm better now.

LurchGS
2006-Jan-11, 05:16 AM
Gillian beat me to it, re is/are and United States - it's a contextual thing.

And I feel her pain... I refuse to eat at the local Burger King because the sign on the door reads "Manager's cannot open the safe" (I told them so, too)

I wrote to a local business asking about their sign: so and so "Family Turf Farm's" (they changed the sign recently. I do my happy dance)

I admit, I tend to grit my teeth when I see bad grammar in a post, but I do consider this to be informal confersation. Signage, however, is formal (or, at least, semi-formal)

Not that I mind posts full of full color glossies with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back.... um... squiggles and numbers, I mean.

/me retreats to Group 'W'

Wolverine
2006-Jan-11, 08:54 AM
As a Mainer, and not all that happy with the direction that the Federal government is taking us (thank you, lobbyists with billions of dollars for making sure that all I get is form letters from my representatives, while you get legislation!) I vote for the plural when describing popular movements that the majority of us are firmly behind, and the singular (with the inclusion of the word "government") when describing things that most of us disagree with. Polls show that most US citizens are unhappy with the administration's actions WRT Iraq and most of them are unhappy with the administration's decision to spy on us without warrants. Orwell was a visionary.

turbo-1, this is not the place to express political statements, as per the forum rules (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php?p=564845#post564845).


12. Politics & Religion

Due to the contentious nature of these subjects, forum participants are strongly advised to avoid discussing religious and political issues. Please don't begin or contribute to a topic that's merely going to incite or fuel a flame war.

However, the following exceptions apply:

A) Political impact upon space programs, exploration, and science.

B) Focused, polite discussion of concepts such as creationism and "intelligent design" which bear direct relevance to astronomy and science, for the purposes of conversing about and addressing misconceptions.

C) Focused, polite discussion of the difference between astronomy (including cosmology) and religion

Partisan political debate is unwelcome and should be undertaken elsewhere. The same applies to debates purely religious in nature. Likewise, proselytizing will not be allowed. In short, you are allowed to discuss politics and religion within a very limited scope where they affect space and space exploration, astronomy, and science. Nothing more. If you really really need to talk about these topics with someone, take it to email or to another bulletin board.

Enzp
2006-Jan-11, 09:08 AM
Not punctuation, but a local Arby's put up a sign on their letter board suggesting we "try some of are favorites."

worzel
2006-Jan-11, 09:46 AM
Nowhere Man, although many British speakers use a plural verb for a singular noun, there are some Brits who know about subject-verb agreement. The Who was a very successful band. The Beatles were even more so.
Haven't your heard, The Who are getting back together :)

It's annoying how many English speakers the world over wouuld say "If I was a rich girl" rather than "If I were a rich man".

Carnifex
2006-Jan-11, 11:42 AM
It's annoying how many English speakers the world over wouuld say "If I was a rich girl" rather than "If I were a rich man".

It's even more annoying, how many English speakers over the world would say "Love your enemy" instead "Loveth thy enemy" :) On a more serious note, languages are evolving and get simplified. Lithuanian is very complex, Sanskrit even more so, however, Latin is a lot simplier, German and English even more, and on the very end of the spectrum we have Esperanto (which was built artificially though), which has only 16 grammar rules total.

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-11, 07:05 PM
Sure, using "is" or "are" with regard to the United States depends on context. But I'm asking about cases where both could be used because neither is forced upon you. For example:

"The United States is/are populated by Americans."

See what I mean?

Carnifex: Latin is a wonderful language. Beautifully simple and pretty minimalistic.

Carnifex
2006-Jan-11, 07:12 PM
I hade an opportunity to study Latin and didn't miss it :) A nicely sounding, logical and quite simple language indeed. I like Lithuanian a little bit more though, it has that ancient sounding... But it's my native language, so you can't blame me :)

Swift
2006-Jan-11, 07:45 PM
Sure, using "is" or "are" with regard to the United States depends on context. But I'm asking about cases where both could be used because neither is forced upon you. For example:

"The United States is/are populated by Americans."

I still say that "The United States" is a single entity, whether you are talking about the Federal government, its citizens, favorites foods, whatever. So I would say "The United States is populated by Americans" or "The United States is bordered by water on three sides". Expressions such as "These United States" derive from historic uses that express the formation of the US from separate entities. My 1.3 cents worth.

Gillianren
2006-Jan-11, 07:47 PM
Sure, using "is" or "are" with regard to the United States depends on context. But I'm asking about cases where both could be used because neither is forced upon you. For example:

"The United States is/are populated by Americans."

See what I mean?

That would be "is." In this case, you are specifically referring to "the country called the United States," which is a singular. This is one of those places where the antebellum answer (that's pre-Civil War, for you non-Americans) would have been "are."

And, yes, grammar rules do change, hence my propensity for beginning sentences with articles. (Which I probably do too often.) However, that is no excuse for just being sloppy. Many errors add to the already severe lack of clarity in the English language, and I don't think language evolution should cover making people harder to understand.

Dr Nigel
2006-Jan-11, 08:37 PM
Gillian, I quite agree.

I firmly believe that, if the United States is capitalised and hence a proper noun, it refers to a single geopolitical entity and should therefore take a singular verb. The more correct (modern English) form of "These United States..." would be "These united states..." i.e. in English we no longer capitalise non-proper (improper?) nouns. (Since the phrase refers to several states that are united, it should take a plural, but since it is not referring to the geopolitical entity known as The United States of America, it is not a proper noun). Although English was once a Germanic language, we have shed the practice of capitalising all nouns (that is still the norm in modern German, for example).

Just for those who might be interested: The full title of the UK is The United Kingdom of Great Britain, Northern Ireland, the Channel Isles and the Isle of Man (it says so on my ham radio license).

Gillianren
2006-Jan-11, 09:00 PM
. . . i.e. in English we no longer capitalise non-proper (improper?) nouns.

The word for which you are looking is "common."

Van Rijn
2006-Jan-11, 09:22 PM
Heh. It isn't unusual to see the term "U.S. states" in the news. Unfortunately, "state" is an ambiguous term (it could refer to a part of a country or a country) as is "America" (which could refer to the U.S.A., or North, Central or South America). The Organization of American States (OAS):

http://www.oas.org/main/main.asp?sLang=E&sLink=http://www.oas.org/documents/eng/memberstates.asp

refers to countries in the Americas, not states in the U.S.

The upshot is that I agree that "U.S." or "United States" should be used to represent a singular entity. So even a phrase like "U.S. states" isn't redundant since it is referring to states of the U.S. nation. Granted, it really should be "USA" but this is another case where context is required to avoid ambiguity.

SeanF
2006-Jan-11, 10:54 PM
I firmly believe that, if the United States is capitalised and hence a proper noun, it refers to a single geopolitical entity and should therefore take a singular verb.

But, Dr. Nigel, earlier in this thread you said:


...although many British speakers use a plural verb for a singular noun, there are some Brits who know about subject-verb agreement. The Who was a very successful band. The Beatles were even more so.
"The Beatles," being capitalised and hence a proper noun, is referring to a single entity, is it not? Are you now of the mind that the correct grammar would be "The Beatles was even more so"?

If not, why treat "The Beatles" differently than "The United States"?

Halcyon Dayz
2006-Jan-12, 01:39 AM
The full title of the UK is The United Kingdom of Great Britain, Northern Ireland, the Channel Isles and the Isle of Man (it says so on my ham radio license).
The Channel Isles and the Isle of Man fall directly under
the Crown, or some-such. They are not part of the EU.
I think your license should read: (valid for) The United Kingdom of Great
Britain and Northern Ireland, AND the Channel Isles, AND the Isle of Man.

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-12, 01:41 AM
Yep. I know that the Channel Isles at least are direct possessions of the Crown. Could be the same for the Isle of Man as well.

Halcyon Dayz
2006-Jan-12, 02:01 AM
Wiki says:


The Isle of Man (Ellan Vannin in Manx) or Mann (Mannin in Manx), is
a constitutional monarchy... Although it is not part of the United Kingdom,
it is a Crown dependency.

The Channel Islands fall into two separate self-governing bailiwicks.
Both the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Bailiwick of Jersey are British crown
dependencies, but neither is part of the United Kingdom.
With Jersey being outside the EU, it is a place for happy off-shore banking.

sarongsong
2006-Jan-12, 02:46 AM
Bailiwick---what a great name, had no idea it was an official term!

NEOWatcher
2006-Jan-12, 01:12 PM
The Supreme Canuck... did you think this might be a difficult question? :think:

How about we just call it Oohsah?

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-12, 06:56 PM
The Supreme Canuck... did you think this might be a difficult question? :think:

Well, nothing is ever simple. ;)


How about we just call it Oohsah?

Er... wha?

NEOWatcher
2006-Jan-12, 07:22 PM
Er... wha?
Isn't Oohsah the phenetic spelling of USA? :whistle:

Dr Nigel
2006-Jan-12, 07:50 PM
Hmm ... lots of food for thought.

It looks like I may have dragged some of my preconceptions into my understanding of the language. I've always thought of the USA as a single entity, but I've only ever heard the Beatles referred to with a plural verb. It could be that the Beatles, being a single group, should take a singular. And that would mean that millions of us have been getting it wrong all these years.

Oops

On the full name of the UK: well, it sounds like several people have been doing some homework. I know that the Channel Isles are governed by the Bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey (each, presumably, presided over by a bailiff). And I was sure these were subject to the crown. The status of London's parliament seems to be a bit of a grey area. The text of my current license document has this : "United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, the Channel Isles & the Isle of Man" (quoted verbatim down to the last punctuation mark), beneath which it is translated into French: "Royaume-Uni de Grande Bretange et d'Irlande du Nord, les Iles Anglo-Normandes et I'lle [sic] de Man" and German: "Fur das Vereinigte Konigreich von Grossbritanien und Nordirland, die Kanalinseln und die Isle of Man". To me, this is a bit ambiguous. At first sight, I thought it meant that the UK included the Channel Isles and the Isle of Man. However, it could be read as the UK (i.e. Great Britain and Northern Ireland), the Channel Isles and the Isle of Man.

Oh, well.

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-13, 01:47 AM
Isn't Oohsah the phenetic spelling of USA? :whistle:

Nope. US'SAH is how I'd right it phonetically. ;)

Jeff Root
2006-Jan-13, 02:42 AM
The text of my current license document has this:
"United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland,
the Channel Isles & the Isle of Man" (quoted verbatim
down to the last punctuation mark)...

...it could be read as the UK (i.e. Great Britain and Northern
Ireland), the Channel Isles and the Isle of Man.
My standard practice would add a comma after "Channel Isles",
to indicate that the Channel Isles and the Isle of Man are not
connected to each other in a manner similar to the connection
between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Amazing that a
comma can mean so much!

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis, you essay

Gillianren
2006-Jan-13, 03:17 AM
My standard practice would add a comma after "Channel Isles",
to indicate that the Channel Isles and the Isle of Man are not
connected to each other in a manner similar to the connection
between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Amazing that a
comma can mean so much!

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis, you essay

In AP style (the bane of my existence during my days as a copy editor), the comma before the conjunction is not used in lists of three but is used in lists of more than three. This is one of the reasons I was campaigning to throw out AP style and use something logical. My editor never went for it, somehow.

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-13, 05:19 AM
I generally go with the comma in lists of three or more. I just like it.

HenrikOlsen
2006-Jan-13, 06:31 AM
I parse the structure of the sentence as:
(United Kingdom of (Great Britain) & (Northern Ireland)), (the Channel Isles) & (the Isle of Man)
and thus count three entities in the list.
I find a comma before the conjunction to be redundant in lists of any length provided disambiguation such as eg. semicolon is used for compound elements.

Carnifex
2006-Jan-13, 11:10 AM
Thank goodness Lithuanian language has defined rules for putting commas, colons, semi-colons and other marks... :dance:

JohnD
2006-Jan-13, 12:09 PM
Once again, guys, it's not grammar, it's politics.

Northen Ireland has no functional governmenmt of its own. When this form of words was invented, NI in fact thee whole of the island of Eire was ruled from Westminster. So it's GB & NI. The Channel Isles and Man did and do have their own parliaments - the States of Guernsey and Jersey (Alderney is a dependency of Guernsey like it was colony, Sark is a 'feudal domain' under Guernsey (Ye Gods! and in the 21st century too)) and Tynwald respectively. But they are all part of the same Kingdom.

Then Stormont was invented to rule NI, then the Troubles shut it down, then it was re-invented, until Sinn Fein (forgive misspelling?) and the Loyalists discovered that that they couldn't work together and rule was taken back. Are you surprised that the UK passport still has the same wording? It would need a redesign every few years.

Of course now there is a Parliament in Scotland and an Assembly in Wales, so it should be "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (when they stop fighting), Wales (when its not raining), Scotland (whenever), the Channel Isles and the Isle of Man". If you felt really lush, you could add "and the Duchy of Cornwall" as there used to be the Stannary that governed that area, and many wish it still did.

Are you surprised that the Queen never smiles?

John

Heid the Ba'
2006-Jan-13, 12:51 PM
Alderney is the reason that Guernsey is officially "the States of Guernsey".

In my day job I occasionally have to deal with the various UK etc. jurisdictions including The Commissary Office of the relevant Sheriff Court in Scotland, The High Court of the Isle of Man, The Ecclesiastical Court of the Royal Court of the States of Guernsey and, my favourite, The Judicial Greffe of the Royal Court of Jersey.

All have their own legal systems, and as was pointed out, are offshore for UK tax.

(That is the correct spelling of sheriff in this context)

HenrikOlsen
2006-Jan-13, 07:34 PM
Isn't Sark where the Jersey people put their money when their taxes get too much?

Grey
2006-Jan-13, 08:39 PM
It's annoying how many English speakers the world over wouuld say "If I was a rich girl" rather than "If I were a rich man".That's right. Protect the endangered subjunctive case, before it's too late!

Eroica
2006-Jan-14, 03:40 PM
The United States are the richest country in the world ... now, that's just wrong!

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-14, 06:03 PM
Sure. But what about:

The United States is a federation of independent sates/The United States are a federation of independent states?

Gillianren
2006-Jan-14, 07:12 PM
Sure. But what about:

The United States is a federation of independent sates/The United States are a federation of independent states?

United States is. At this point, it's the country name, which is singular.

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-14, 08:17 PM
But that again brings us the the "The Beatles" example:

The Beatles is a band/The Beatles are a band.

Really, the first sentence should be proper as I'm referring to a single entity. But it just isn't done that way.

Gillianren
2006-Jan-14, 10:22 PM
TSC, are you expecting logic out of the English language? Because that's a futile pursuit.

Dr Nigel
2006-Jan-15, 12:11 PM
Gillianren, that's a very good point.

And apologies to all for opening the can of worms that is the full name of the UK. My mum has been to Alderney - they have their own airport, and everything. Well, I say airport, it's more of a, sort of, cow field with a shed. Yes, the cows run away from the 'plane as it comes in to land. I've no idea how they deal with take-offs. (An aside - they use only small light aircraft; I don't think the island is long enough for a jet to land or take off.)

Note to residents of Alderney : just kidding, folks!

SeanF
2006-Jan-15, 02:15 PM
TSC, are you expecting logic out of the English language? Because that's a futile pursuit.
Good point.

But then, the answer to the question "United States is" or "United States are" is "United States is."

An the answer to the secondary question "Why?" is simply "Because that's the way we do it."

Right?

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-15, 05:25 PM
TSC, are you expecting logic out of the English language? Because that's a futile pursuit.

Dang. Right. "Is" it is, then.

Soltras
2006-Jan-15, 06:14 PM
Read the Declaration of Independence. The capitalization is wildly out of control there.

I think the bottom line is that if you're capitalizing, then you are referring to the country as a whole by its name (ie. United States) and it should be treated as grammatically single. If you're not capitalizing (ie. united states), then you are referring to a collection of states that are qualified as united.

Gillianren
2006-Jan-15, 07:21 PM
Good point.

But then, the answer to the question "United States is" or "United States are" is "United States is."

An the answer to the secondary question "Why?" is simply "Because that's the way we do it."

Right?

Right--with the previously-noted exceptions, of course.

As to the capitalization in the Declaration of Independence, remember that grammar rules do change, and capitalization was a bit closer to Zaphod's two hundred years ago. (It's never been exactly like Zaphod's . . . .)

SeanF
2006-Jan-15, 08:56 PM
Right--with the previously-noted exceptions, of course.
Right.

My experience is that with such things as musical groups and sports teams, it depends on whether the name is structurally plural. The Yankees are, but the Avalanche is. The Beatles are, but the Knack is.

That doesn't seem to extend to titles of creative works, though: Ghostbusters is (not are).

It may be that political entities go the same as creative titles. Does anybody ever hear "The United Nations are" or "The Netherlands are"?


As to the capitalization in the Declaration of Independence, remember that grammar rules do change, and capitalization was a bit closer to Zaphod's two hundred years ago. (It's never been exactly like Zaphod's . . . .)
Thank goodness. ;)

HenrikOlsen
2006-Jan-16, 12:43 AM
That doesn't seem to extend to titles of creative works, though: Ghostbusters is (not are).
Ghostbusters the movie is, but in the movie Ghostbusters the team are.