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Posted by Smokey Stover on March 21, 2010 at 18:14

In Reply to: Hendiadys posted by Anders on March 21, 2010 at 14:22:

: : : A horse and a man is more than one / Hendiadys and concord

: : : Hello forum
: : : A hendiadys is a figure of speech involving two words that work together so as to establish a single, compound, complex meaning. But does this have implications in terms of concord, I wonder? Thus, if I were to say: "A person's entire strength and energy" (conceiving of strength and energy as a hendiadys, both modified by entire) would I be justified in continuing with an "is"?

: : : Oh, by the way: I take my headline quote from Shakespeare, prompted by this article which I discovered while trying to find a solution on the Internet to the question hereby given.

: : :

: : : Best regards

: : You want to know if treating the two nouns as having a combined meaning is justified. Who among us is qualified to judge?

: : The two quotations from Shakespeare at the start of the article you cite are both in the nature of whimsical comments on language, in fact, on the use of the plural as opposed to the singular.

: : Justifying your practice by the example of Shakespeare may not always win the hearts and minds of editors. But editors do not make the rules of English--nor does anyone else. If a particular locution (like your quotation from Shakespeare) sounds right to you with a singular verb, write it that way, and see if the heavens fall. There are many situations in which the rule of number agreement is ambiguous or applied differently by different speakers. If the sentence flows smoothly and unambiguously, nobody will question the number agreement.

: : Thanks, I guess, for the word, hendiadys. Now if I can just think of some way to use it in a sentence other than as a definition.

: Dear Smokey
: Many thanks for your comments. You see, I'm not a native speaker, so I cannot rely on my instincts. Actually, I was correcting a student's paper when it struck me that the stylistic feature of a hendiadys might be a way of explaining concord, cf. "A person's entire..." You don't think this word is useful? Then try a hendiatris! i.e. an expression involving three parts, such as, for instance, wine, women and song, or in modern parlance: sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll.
: Best regards
: Anders

Anders, have you been here before? I would be glad to provide you with authoritative advice on grammar, but I'm not a grammarian or any kind of "word guy." But I have seen numerous examples of situations in which a verb has to agree either of two antecedents, one singular and one plural. My recollection is that the word guys usually say, make the verb agree with the nearest antecedent, but don't take my word for it.

There are also examples of singular nouns treated as plurals, especially in Britain, e.g., "The government have decided that . . . ." In the U.S. the government is singular. I think the Brits would also say, "The management feel that . . . ," while Americans would say, "The management feels that . . . ."

You say, "I'm not a native speaker, so I cannot rely on my instincts." If instincts were enough we would not have so many books and columns on word usage, nor so much confusion. If you want to see real confusion, watch an English-language television program with "closed captions" and read the captions, especially if the program was recorded live--that is, one in which the captions aren't based on a pre-existing script. (I often have to use the captions if the program is British in origin.)

Do I find words like "hendiasys" or "hendiatris" useful? Let's say that I respect them, and I respect anyone who can use them fluently. I can easily see them as useful to linguists and to the people that compile the word lists for spelling bees.

I can also imagine their use in the teaching of what would probably be called "Advanced English grammar." What is taught in English-speaking elementary schools is "Elem entary English grammar." Perhaps English majors in college are offered an advanced grammar course--or perhaps not.

In any case, there are at least a half-dozen regulars on this board who are better than I at the nice points of grammar.