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Old 30th September 2010, 07:43 PM   #1
evita13
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Default grammar question silly

Hi everybody! I know this is a silly question but yesterday I was reading a book about computers in English and I found this sentence: "The heart of this book is pictures". Why the author use "is" instead of "are"? I mean, pictures is a countable plural noun and the verb is singular, why? Thanks in advance.
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Old 30th September 2010, 08:10 PM   #2
Ajo
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Quote:
Originally Posted by evita13 View Post
Hi everybody! I know this is a silly question but yesterday I was reading a book about computers in English and I found this sentence: "The heart of this book is pictures". Why the author use "is" instead of "are"? I mean, pictures is a countable plural noun and the verb is singular, why? Thanks in advance.

In English, unlike Spanish, one writes

X is Y

when X is singular

and

X are Y

when X is plural.




eg

The heart of the book is pictures.
Pictures are the heart of the book.


Similarly we say

It is three o'clock.

I think English has a preference for sentences which still look grammatical even if the speaker drops dead half way through.
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Old 30th September 2010, 09:16 PM   #3
Margot
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Quote:
Originally Posted by evita13 View Post
Hi everybody! I know this is a silly question but yesterday I was reading a book about computers in English and I found this sentence: "The heart of this book is pictures". Why (does) the author use "is" instead of "are"? I mean, pictures is a countable plural noun and the verb is singular, why? Thanks in advance.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ajo View Post
In English, unlike Spanish, one writes
X is Y
when X is singular
and
X are Y
when X is plural.
eg
The heart of the book is pictures.
Pictures are the heart of the book.
Hi Evita...
It's not a silly question at all.....in fact, it's just the kind of grammatical cunundrum that I often obsess over from the other side of the fence (as an English speaker puzzling sometimes over certain Spanish usage).
And frankly...if I were to say that sentence - as a native English speaker - I would say:
"The heart of the book is its pictures" or...
"The heart of the book is (found) in its pictures"
(Sus ilustraciones componen el meollo del libro)
and even with the good explanaation that Ajo has given, I'd say:
"Pictures are at the heart of the book.
I'm not suggesting the original sentences are incorrect...but only that your question is a good one.....and like you - I, too, find the usage a bit weird.
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Old 1st October 2010, 01:52 AM   #4
pbojarsky
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Because the verb corresponds to "the heart", which is singular. No such thing as silly grammar questions.

Paula
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Old 1st October 2010, 02:50 AM   #5
Lise
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Or in other words the subject is 'heart' which is singular and the verb has to agree with the subject.

And I agree : No such thing as a silly question ! Ask away ! No dude en preguntar !
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Old 1st October 2010, 11:14 AM   #6
Ajo
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Margot View Post
And frankly...if I were to say that sentence - as a native English speaker - I would say:
"The heart of the book is its pictures" or...
"The heart of the book is (found) in its pictures"
[del]
I'd say:
"Pictures are at the heart of the book.
I'm not suggesting the original sentences are incorrect...but only that your question is a good one.....and like you - I, too, find the usage a bit weird.
I too agree that the original sentence is odd, and I too would want to say at least "The heart of the book is the pictures". Somehow this turns the plural "pictures" into a singular "the [set of] pictures", at least semantically. "Its" does the same job.

I thought at first that I'd want to do something similar in all cases.

But I can imagine myself saying quite naturally "Last year we studied lines and planes; this term our subject is circles." I think if I said " ... this term our subject is the circles" it would sound like a parody of a 19th C german professor.

Puzzling stuff. Makes Spanish seem positively simple.
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Old 2nd October 2010, 12:04 AM   #7
evita13
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Thanks!!! I said silly cause I was thinking in a rule that I've never studied but is there. I always have problems with countables and non-countables... and I thought "pictures" were one of my nightmares. I'm learning a lot with you, bye!
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