Monday, April 7, 2014

Agreement of number, please, BBC

I continue to be annoyed at, among many other things, the insistence of the BBC on using the singular form of the verb where the plural is correct, and vice versa.

I suspect this is partly an attempt to ape Hollywood, but it may be home grown. In either case, it is a great pity that the BBC has long abandoned its former role as teacher and arbiter of the Queen's English, which is greatly appreciated worldwide -- including in the United States, where there is an automatic and often quite undeserved respect for the supposed superiority of English spoken and written by English people.

Presumably the failure to use a plural verb when more than one subject is involved results from an increasing inability to retain an idea in the modern brain, addled as it is by constant exposure to electronic impulses. To people who are incapable of walking (or, even more dangerously, driving) a few yards down the street without bending over to check emails and texts on their mobile phones, or whose sole exercise is jabbing at a keypad or a joystick switch as they play computer games, it is perhaps difficult to complete a sentence correctly if they don't recall how they started it. (I'm sorry if you found that last sentence too long.)

Correct usage is simple. Just as 1+1=2, a singular noun plus a singular noun equals a plural noun, which needs a plural, not a singular, verb.

I'm sorry to have had to repeat this point, but I do hear this rule flagrantly violated on the BBC almost every day.


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