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Please consider the following:

My wide range of abilities have helped my team succeed.

My wide range of abilities has helped my team succeed.

Microsoft Word identifies the first as a subject-verb agreement error. However, from my perspective, the "wide range" is not the subject, but rather a descriptor of the abilities. Are either of these sentences wrong, and is one preferred?

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You should never trust Microsoft Word on grammar. –  Peter Shor Dec 7 '13 at 19:18
    
@Peter, or anything else (including, but not limited to, spelling, typography, hyphenation, and styling). –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 7 '13 at 22:57
    
I think this Gordian knot can simply be cut: "My wide range of abilities helped my team succeed." –  Andreas Blass Dec 8 '13 at 3:06

1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted

In such cases, ‘. . . when there are agreement options, the singular verb seems to invoke the set, whereas the plural verb makes us aware of the individual items in it’ (The Cambridge Guide to English Usage’). That leaves the choice of both available to the writer, depending on the aspect to be emphasised.

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Exactly. A/NP[Human]'s (wide/narrow) range of NP[Pl] is one of many such lexical quantifiers under construction. One can focus on the NP[Human] involved, or on the NP[Pl]. Either way works, because there is no exclusive parse; some people see it one way under some circumstances, and people also see it other ways under some circumstances. Like having two doors. –  John Lawler Dec 7 '13 at 19:56

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