Can a plural subject be followed by a complement beginning “a…”?

Can anyone kindly explain why this sentence is correct? Complex musical numbers are a defining characteristic of most Italian films. Answer In a comment, John Lawler wrote: A defining characteristic of Italian films is not a subject; it is a noun phrase that is the predicate of the sentence, following the be form that is … Read more

the majority of whom are male or males

Should I use singular or plural form of male here? I think it should be males. Am I correct? Social and cultural traditions often make it difficult for aid workers, the majority of whom are [male/males], to meet the women in the community. Answer Both words are correct. The first says that the aid workers … Read more

Six feet/foot five: Does adding “inches” affect the grammatical form of “foot”?

Is it possible to say “six feet five” (inches are left out here)? Or is “six foot five” the only correct variant? Does incluing “inches” affect the grammatical form of “foot”? Answer Yulia, I’d like to try to answer your questions in a way that will be useful to you. Please advise if I have … Read more

Predicative use of ‘ongoing’

As a Spanish employee of a German multinational company, I have always cringed at my German colleagues’ tendency to give ‘ongoing’ a predicative use, e.g. ‘The meeting is ongoing’. I was sure that this was at least poor style, and very likely ungrammatical, and that ‘ongoing’ only worked as an attribute (e.g. ‘The ongoing meeting’). … Read more

Is it possible for a sentence to have a direct object and predicate adjective?

In school, I was taught that action verbs have direct objects and linking verbs have predicate adjectives or nominatives; however, some verbs seem to use both simultaneously. For example, in “I made it blue,” made seems to have both a direct object it and a predicate adjective blue. In the early stages of my adverb … Read more

Why do we ask “Who is she?” in the subjective form?

If “her” is objective and “she” is subjective, why do we say: ‘Who is she?’ instead of: ‘Who is her?’ apart from the latter sounding a bit strange? For instance: ‘That car belongs to her.‘ vs. ‘She has a nice car.’ Is the second sentence, ‘Who is her?’, actually grammatical and is there a situation … Read more

Why “be king”, not “be a king”?

I’ve heard people say “be king” (as in “I can’t wait to be king”) in movies and TV. Why don’t they say “be a king”? Which is correct? Answer Since “a king” uses an indefinite article, it suggests that he may become any one of a number of kings. In most cases where a person … Read more

“end up” peculiar properties

Just putting together a lexical lesson on making life changes and thought I’d use a sentence with ‘end up’. However, when I ran through various sample sentences I noticed that it is quite an unusual beast in that it licenses verb+ing phrases, adjective phrases and prepositional phrases and noun phrases. So: I ended up drunk … Read more

“To Be” conjugation with Inversions?

Looking at the TV was/were John and Jane. Should "to be" be conjugated in the singular or plural form? My first thought was that it should agree with Looking at the TV; after all it comes first in the sentence and it makes sense to think that it should be the subject. But then what … Read more