Mab of the Antipodes (mab_browne) wrote in fandom_grammar,
Mab of the Antipodes
mab_browne
fandom_grammar

Answer: When is it correct to use isn't/aren't in certain phrases?

Our question today asks which option in this sentence is correct and why?

"So, you are one of those people who isn't/aren't good at accepting help?"

This means that in this post we get to examine the agreement of subjects and verbs, with a little help from Bodie and Doyle and their colleagues from The Professionals.



The basic rule is that a singular subject takes a singular verb, and a plural subject takes a plural verb.

Doyle shoots a hand gun very well, whereas Bodie is more skilled with a rifle.

The agents of CI5 all shoot well, as they are exceedingly well trained.

George Cowley enjoys a pure malt scotch.

His agents enjoy a scotch too, especially if their boss is supplying it.


Issues arise when the sentence structure is more complicated. The pertinent clause we have to look at in our query is “one of those people”. What is the actual subject – one, or people? If the parsing of this had been left to my poor old brain, readers would be none the wiser, but fortunately the internet provided experts to answer the question.

My first impulse was to assume that one was the subject, but in strict grammatical terms I’d be wrong. People is the subject here.

Let’s try changing our sentence around:

“Of those people who isn’t/aren’t good at accepting help, are you one?”

When you look at this structure, it’s clear which verb is the right one. So the correct answer is:

"So, you are one of those people who aren't good at accepting help?"

Of course, even then, it’s not as easy as that. As this link points out, language use changes, and increasingly people are going with the singular usage. What does this mean for your average fanfic writer? In narrative use, the plural usage is definitely correct, but you may be writing in first person point of view, or you may be writing dialogue for a character who will be going with common usage or who doesn’t count correct grammar use amongst their prime concerns. In those cases, you may prefer the colloquial usage.

Bodie looked grim. “Doyle is one of those people who blames himself for the invention of gunpowder, given half a chance.

Bodie grimly considers that Doyle is one of those people who blame themselves for the invention of gunpowder.



Here are some useful links in teasing this out:

http://data.grammarbook.com/blog/effective-writing/the-wicked-of/

http://www.cjr.org/language_corner/just_one_of_those_things.php

http://www.oxonianreview.org/wp/one-of-those-grammatical-errors/
Tags: !answer, agreement:subject-verb, author:mab_browne, language:colloquial
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