The Word Guy: Singular or plural? Put a cap on indecision
Question: In the sentence, “Each of the baseball fans who attend/attends the game will get a free cap,” should the verb be singular (“attends”) or plural (“attend”)? My grammar book says that “each” is always singular. But does “who” refer to “fans” (plural verb) or to “each” (singular verb)?
— Pat O'Brien, via email
Answer: That free cap sounds like a great deal, especially for us middle-aged guys who wear baseball caps to cover up our baldpates. As a kid, I wore my Yankees cap so much that my mom worried it would make me bald. Maybe she was right, although I think the genes of her thin-haired dad had something to do with it, too.
Anyway, the correct choice here is the plural verb (“attend”). It's true that the subject of the sentence — “each” — demands a singular verb. But “who” is the subject of the relative clause, “who attend the game,” and it must agree with the plural noun to which it refers: “fans.”
A handy way to determine the correct choice is to reword the sentence: “Of the baseball fans who attend the game, each is going to get a free cap.”
Q: In the travel section of the Hartford Courant, the writer writes of “gourmands” savoring New England flavor. Should not the word be “gourmet?” I have always thought of a gourmand as being one who eats and drinks excessively, a glutton — not at all like a gourmet who appreciates good food.
— Sundaram V. Ramanan, M.D., via email
A: You've said a mouthful. “Gourmand” (sometimes spelled “gormand”) does, indeed, bear the connotation of gluttony, while “gourmet” means “a connoisseur of fine food and drink.”
The origins of the two words help explain their different meanings. “Gourmand,” which entered English during the 1400s, derives from the French “gourmant” (glutton). “Gourmet,” which didn't show up in English until the 1800s, is an alteration of the French “gromet” (boy servant, vintner's assistant), hence, its reference to someone who knows about wine and food.
Because “gourmand” is similar to the French word “gourmandise,” which means “an appreciation of fine cuisine,” some people use it as a synonym for “gourmet,” and this secondary definition is now included in many dictionaries.
Nevertheless, “gourmand” bears a connotation of excessive culinary or bibulous indulgence, and those who use it to mean “a connoisseur of food and drink” with no connotation of gluttony will give purists indigestion.
Rob Kyff, a teacher and writer in West Hartford, Conn., invites your language sightings. Send email to Wordguy@aol.com or send regular mail to Rob Kyff, Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers cut linebacker Kion Wilson, sign cornerback Toler
- Five questions facing Steelers entering training camp
- Israel rejects Gaza truce, reports say
- Crash closes one lane of westbound I-376 in Beaver County
- Motorcycle runs off road in Butler County, kills Shaler man
- Suspended Penn-Trafford teacher charged with stalking student
- Rossi: Johnston must reach Malkin in Moscow
- Injured eagle in Somerset County returns to the wild
- North Huntingdon woman charged with threatening to burn down officer’s house
- Carjacked vehicle hits Philly crowd, kills 2 children
- Pirates’ Melancon has been consistent since moving into closer’s role