Curious if this textbook example is correct. According to the textbook, “are” is incorrect and “is” should be used instead. Why is this?
After days of testimony, the jury, including its two alternative members, are in deliberations and expected to deliver a verdict this afternoon.
(not naming the textbook so it makes cheating harder)
I would understand if the sentence lacked the
including its two alternative membersphrase, but I think that the inclusion of the plural phrase would require a verb which agrees with a plural subject. In this special case, how does the rule apply? Why?
Verb agreement in “singular X including plural Y is/are”
The OP stated:
but I think that the inclusion of the plural phrase would require a verb which agrees with a plural subject
It doesn’t work that way.
PLEASE NOTE: This question is not about whether jury is singular or plural, even though the textbook has clearly been written by someone who believes the jury are never instructed by the judge. That is completely immaterial. This question is not about collective nouns at all!
It’s about whether when you attach a prepositional phrase with a plural object to a to a singular subject this changes the number of the verb needed for agreement in “singular X including plural Y is/are”.
In short, they are simply trying to trick you into misapplying mathematics to grammatical agreement to get you to swap the number from their preferred singular into plural for erroneous reasons.
Here’s a simpler demonstration of the trick they’re trying to pull on you:
More than one person was sick that day.
The algebraist in you might deduce that since only one alone is singular, and that more than one is by definition something that is not one, then surely the verb there must be were.
But that’s wrong because language is not math. The agreement law governing the language here is a law unto itself, not tricks of sophisticated sophistry or mathematical deduction. For numeric agreement, more than one is still just one.
This is the same thing as happens with prepositions:
One person like those who robbed me that night was standing in line.
Here the subject one person is connected to a plural noun using the preposition like. That doesn’t change the grammatical number of the subject in any way.
Whether you think of including as a preposition or as nonfinite transitive verb acting as a modifier (sometimes called a participle), it still has no effect on the number of the noun it modifies for purposes of grammatical concord:
Only one other person, including immediate family members, is ever allowed in the hospital room at the same time.
The including bit doesn’t change the number of one person for agreement with the verb. This right here is what they’re trying to confuse you with.
Their choice of “jury” risks confusing students by making them think the grammatical number of collective nouns matters here. It doesn’t.
Unfortunately, they’ve only confused themselves. That’s because as a collective noun, jury is often construed to take a plural verb. So some students will not understand the question because it wouldn’t change anything if it were. So it would be a pointless exercise.
Here are a few citations:
Besides, in criminal prosecutions the jury are the judges of both law and fact.
— Jury Nullification: The Evolution of a Doctrine, by Clay Conrad; the Cato Institute, 1999.
The jury are instructed that when evidence is given tending to show admissions made by the defendants…
— The Bisbee Massacre: Robbery, Murder and Retribution in the Arizona Territory, 1883–1884, by David Grassé; McFarland & Company, 2017.
If the Jury were judges of the law, as well as of the fact, much evil would arise from arbitrary decisions.
— The Carolina Law Journal, Volume 1; by Abraham Blanding, 1831.
The jury were out for less than an hour.
— Kilo 17; by Harry Ferguson; Bloomsbury, 2003.
You’ll find many more where those came from, examples like “the jury are divided” or “the jury are still deliberating”.
So it’s up to you which way you want to swing. You can say jury are arguing about it if you want to treat them as several people, or you can say that the jury has returned a unanimous verict. The choice is yours.
But in a rigged demo like this would-be test, you have no such freedom of expression. They are trying to trick you into thinking prepositions can change the number of the noun they modify because of some fallacious mathematical reasoning that doesn’t apply to language. For that trick to work, the mind of the author can never have contemplated having jury ever legbitately take a plural verb, however divided they might be.
So it’s a rigged demo that oversimplifies and uses a bad example to attempt to justify its trick. It allows for only a naïve perhaps even provincial view of the grammatical number of collective nouns.
And don’t let anyone tell you that these things never happen in America. They do.