Consider the following sentence:

This table outlines a class of proteins that primarily attack the brain.

I am not sure whether to use attack or attacks. If attack refers to class then I should use attacks, but if it refers to proteins then I should use attack.

In this case, both versions might work. However, I am not sure about this.

  • You are right. That targets the same issue but following this conversation I think both versions are possible.
    – user47109
    Aug 13, 2013 at 14:29
  • Following what conversation?
    – TrevorD
    Aug 13, 2013 at 15:11
  • 2
    What is doing the attacking? The class? or the proteins themselves?
    – Mitch
    Aug 13, 2013 at 15:18

1 Answer 1


You're correct that the sentence is ambiguous. Attack would imply that you're talking about a subset of all proteins that attack the brain (a class of them). Attacks would add a descriptor to the class, and be equivalent to

This table outlines a class of proteins. The class primarily attacks the brain.

If the class encompasses all proteins that primarily attack the brain, I would use "attacks". Otherwise, both structures are valid, although I would lean towards describing the behaviour of the proteins themselves.

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