Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 08:33:46 -0500
From: "Dennis R. Preston" preston[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]PILOT.MSU.EDU
Subject: Re: "One of the x that has/have"?
I knew Larry could bracket it (and show that the rule which disallows a
more 'ticklish' determination of which subject goes where is silly).
Dennis P. challenges:
'This is the only one of the fictions which has/*have caused us any trouble
at all' (as opposed to '...one of those dictions which have...). It seems
clear to me that 'semantic' facts can indeed 'disrupt' the over-simple
The 'only' addition demands singular agreeemnt
Let me take up the challenge. Consider:
(i) This is THE ONLY ONE [of the fictions] which HAS caused us any problems.
(ii) This is the only one [of [THE FICTIONS that HAVE caused us problems]]
that needs to be dealt with today.
Yep, it's bracketing, a.k.a. figuring out whose subject is whose. Dennis's
example, (i), sports a negative polarity item (_any_) and a relative pronoun
(_which_, typically associated with non-restrictive relatives) that make the
bracketing, and thus the singular agreement, in (i) appropriate. In (ii),
I've changed _which_ to restrictive _that_, removed the _any_, and added
enough context to force a different bracketing and plural agreement (leaving,
of course, singular agreement on _needs_, which does agree with 'the only one'
--its subject). Safire, eat your heart out.