Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Jeff Atwood ♦ has just posted something that I'm confused about

Stack Overflow, due to its size, has some unique problems. One of those is flags

I'd say that those and flags are both in plural, however shouldn't is be plural too? It means, shouldn't it be

Stack Overflow, due to its size, has some unique problems. One of those are flags

I think it's right, because he's a native English speaker, but I'm just not sure why. Or is it just a mistake?

share|improve this question
1  
"It depends on what the meaning of the words 'is' is." –Bill Clinton –  Neil McGuigan Aug 9 '11 at 17:21
    
?? What are you refering to? –  genesis Aug 9 '11 at 17:26
2  
Just to add to the other answers: you can analyse the sentence as One of those [problems] is [the problem of] flags. –  Jon Purdy Aug 9 '11 at 19:10
add comment

5 Answers

up vote 24 down vote accepted

Those is plural, yes, but "flags" grammatically agrees with "one" in this case.

The sentence is something like this:

Stack Overflow, due to its size, has some unique problems. One {of those [problems]} is flags.

The part between [-] can be omitted to avoid repetition. The part between {-} can be omitted to explain the agreement.

So it could become: "One is flags".

EDIT: I'd like to add that the sentence "One of those is flags" written by Jeff, is perfectly fine. It's not nonstandard or ungrammatical. It's correct in English.

Like I said in the comments, "flags" is treated as a general noun, not as a plural of many objects. It's like saying "One of those is the flagging system".

share|improve this answer
    
I thought that "is" is ALWAYS plural? –  genesis Aug 9 '11 at 8:35
1  
What do you mean exactly? "Is" is the third singular person for the verb to be. –  Alenanno Aug 9 '11 at 8:36
    
Sorry, you just had probably have some typo in your answer –  genesis Aug 9 '11 at 8:38
    
No, there is no typo in my answer. Where do you see it? –  Alenanno Aug 9 '11 at 8:39
    
I had probably hallucination that I saw "is is plural". Forgot about it –  genesis Aug 9 '11 at 8:41
show 8 more comments

Let me highlight the sentence as :

One (of those problems) is flags

The "is" agrees with the "One" in this case.

share|improve this answer
    
The "is" agrees with the "One" in this case. this is part I wanted to know :) Great, thanks. However, Englishman is wrong? (you edited my question) –  genesis Aug 9 '11 at 8:39
3  
I'm not sure if Jeff is from England which is what "Englishman" means. So I changed it to native speaker. –  JoseK Aug 9 '11 at 8:53
add comment

I think that the main reason this sounds wrong is that the word ”flags” is used actually to refer to ”flagging system” or ”flagging concept”, singular. If such substitution is made, there are no problems with the original.

Alternatively, rewriting it like

One of those is related to flags.

seems (to me) more grammatical compared to the original (meaning is changed though; maybe caused by is closer to original intention).

EDIT: After opening a new question regarding this subject I should correct myself - there is nothing ungrammatical in the original line and the improvement I propose is just the matter of style.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Note that flags is not exactly plural but it is a feature (not mutiple features , not a plural.)

  one is typo

  One is 'flags'  

  One {Among these} is 'flags'

  One {of these} is 'flags'

That is how it happens!

share|improve this answer
add comment

(I may be off base here, but I don't believe so, and this hasn't been addressed so I'm adding this answer.)

The of those part of

One of those is flags.

is really a substitute for there being a problem with the site, not a direct reference to flags. Therefore you can substitute:

One problem is flags.

Here's it's easy to see that is agrees with one problem, and that whether or not the word that follows is singular or plural is irrelevant. These sentences are all fine:

One problem is a giant wildebeest in the back seat.

One problem is the twenty-two wet sponges blocking the door.

One problem is goats in my pants.

share|improve this answer
1  
Or "One of the problems is people focussing on the two words in italics, rather than the whole sentence.". –  TimLymington Aug 9 '11 at 15:22
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.