In the following sentence:

Furthermore, the tools require intensity data provided by an external software which, along with possible file conversion, increases the total execution time.

Should increase(s) be singular or plural?

marked as duplicate by Edwin Ashworth, Chappo, sumelic, K J, JJJ Jun 21 at 8:18

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  • One of the answers in the duplicate question cites a style guide but even the examples from the guide are not without some ambiguity. One example (school and playground) sounds reasonable to be considered one subject, not two, but the example: "Jesse, as well as Luke, likes jazz" sounds wrong. I'm voting to re-open this question. – Kristina Lopez Jan 28 '14 at 20:56

Singular. The subject is which, which refers to software, which is singular.

Actually, it shouldn't be singular, it should be a mass noun: software is not countable in English. So either by external software which or by an external program which. But either way, it takes a singular verb.

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    Sorry, Colin, I don't agree. I'm reading the sentence to say (to paraphrase) "...that the intensity data and file conversion (combined), increase the total execution time." – Kristina Lopez Jan 28 '14 at 19:20
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    @KristinaLopez: true, I missed that possible reading. It's a genuinely ambiguous sentence (though I now agree that your reading is more likely). For me, the answer would still be singular, because in my English data is a mass noun, but if the writer (or editor!) prefers data are, then using a plural verb will actually disambiguate. Nevertheless, strong advice to the writer is Rewrite the sentence to remove the ambiguity that Kristina and I have found. – Colin Fine Jan 28 '14 at 19:25
  • I agree that the OP should have used 'that' in place of which - however I have been proved wrong about the provenance of which/that in singular/plural usage, it seems that our modern rules concerning their usage haven't always been so. Anyway, I read the list of affecting factors to the process and inferred the plural irrespective of 'which'. – Chris Woods Jan 28 '14 at 19:39
  • Would changing it to "of which" be any better? – Bort Jan 29 '14 at 21:14
  • @ChristopherWoods: I don't see any mention of that vs which (was it in a comment which has since been deleted?) For me, in a restrictive relative clause, they are interchangeable, but which is a little more formal. – Colin Fine Jan 30 '14 at 0:43

Plural. To boil it down, there are two factors impacting total execution time: intensity data (whatever that is) and possible file conversion. That adds up to two, so those factors increase total execution time.

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    Now there I don't agree with you. In my English a, along with b, takes a singular verb, not a plural one. But I recognise that there is controversy on the question. – Colin Fine Jan 28 '14 at 19:27
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    Ignoring that 'data' is the plural of the singular datum, I concur that the moment you have multiple affecting factors they increase the execution time. 'They increases the execution time' sounds (and is) wrong. – Chris Woods Jan 28 '14 at 19:34
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    @regdwight: "the tools require intensity data [...] along with possible file conversion...". Two factors. Each of these two factors can increase the execution time, individually or (more probably) severally. Plural is valid usage here. – Chris Woods Jan 28 '14 at 20:10
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    That the sentence is poorly (ambiguously!) composed does not preclude the necessity to refer to the affecting factors in the plural. – Chris Woods Jan 28 '14 at 20:13
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    @Kristina, I actually did not mean to really argue one way or the other. After all, as Christopher says, if the intention is to communicate clearly, you should just ditch the sentence wholesale and rewrite from scratch. What I do want to figure out, though, is that there are indeed two parties to this debate, one of them insisting on "my dad, along with my mom, has a beard" and the other on "my dad, along with my mom, have a beard", and that both parties fully realize what it is they are insisting on. – RegDwigнt Jan 28 '14 at 20:22

It should be singular because that particular verb refers to external software (singular). So: external software increases the total execution time.

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    But the external software isn't solely increasing the execution time, the unknown duration of a possibly required file conversion is also contributing. Whilst the software may also handle the conversion, they are multiple actions affecting the execution time. – Chris Woods Jan 28 '14 at 19:37

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