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Jul. 19th, 2009 09:20 pm subject/verb agreement

Something seems amiss here.

Last night, a few friends of ours were arguing over an agreement issue. The specific sentence began with "a lot of things is..." and ended with whatever finished the thought.

I define the subject as "a lot of things." I would follow this with ARE.

However, my friends insisted that the subject is actually "a lot" and the verb would be IS.

Clarification please? I've been out of college a loooooong time and cannot articulate why I think IS would be incorrect.

EDIT: A discussion of this very thing is on this page:

And: in this case, LOT is used to mean "group of" or "many." I would likely use MANY in writing ("many things are...").

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Date:July 20th, 2009 01:33 am (UTC)
The subject is a lot, but the verb agreement depends on your usage of lot. If it's a single package, shipping run, or other division of goods, it takes a singular verb; if it's just a generic plural count, it takes a plural verb. You probably want the latter.

A lot of Factor VIII contains (number) units.

A lot of people go to college.

ETA: The link you added reminds me that I left out one option. If "a lot" is a generic collective count of discrete items, it's plural. A lot of things annoy me. If it's a generic collective count of non-discrete content, it's singular. A lot of noise is coming out of your room, young lady.

Edited at 2009-07-20 01:37 am (UTC)
Date:July 20th, 2009 01:37 am (UTC)
So what is "of things," then? If not part of the subject, what is "of things"?

And yes, I was referring to the plural count, so.... yes. :)

I am confused by the nomenclature of subjects, compound nouns, compound subjects, what-have-you. I used to be more adept at articulating grammar, but now: meh! :(
Date:July 20th, 2009 01:57 am (UTC)
It's a prepositional phrase, and it characterizes the subject, but it is not itself the subject. Kinda. The way we diagrammed in school, you'd have a horizontal line with "lot" on the left, a vertical bar dividing the line, and the verb on the right. Then you'd have the "a" on a little branch hanging down below "lot", the "of" on a little branch hanging down below "lot", and the "things" on a little horizontal extension of the "of" branch. I started to draw a picture here but remembered I don't know how to force spacing and fixed fonts, so never mind that.

I'm probably just as rusty! ::yields to anyone who knows the proper terminology better::
Date:July 20th, 2009 02:30 am (UTC)
I think it's the same mass noun vs. count noun situation that divides "less" and "fewer". If you'd use "less X", then it's "a lot of X IS"; if you'd use "fewer Y", then it's "a lot of Y ARE".
Date:July 20th, 2009 02:31 am (UTC)
as in, like... "he has less milk, but she has fewer cookies. there IS a lot of milk, but there ARE a lot of cookies."
Date:July 20th, 2009 02:37 am (UTC)
Hrm. Until you brought this up, I would have never looked at that sentence and thought about lots. As in, this lot of things is very large. So thanks for that, at least.

Date:July 20th, 2009 02:02 pm (UTC)
Yes to all of the above commenters. It's exactly like: "Your group of friends are grammar-challenged".

See, saying "Your group of friends is grammar-challenged"? That would just be ironic.