3

Stack Exchange is the best (and one of very few useful) question-and-answer websites in the world.

In this statement, should it be website (where "best" overrules "one of very few") or websites (where "one of very few" overrules "best"? What is the correct way to phrase the intent of this statement in a single sentence?

Update: one of my friends noted that the question is wrong. Since there is an 'and' within the brackets, the statement is itself a compound sentence, and hence is not reducible to a simple statement. I think he is right.

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    @Kris: I don't see any reason why this should go to ELL. There are no clear rules, and it's a quirky aspect of English that confuses most native speakers anyway. – FumbleFingers Nov 9 '14 at 14:12
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    In principle one might have thought Changing plurality in parentheses would answer this question as well, but it doesn't. Nor does Singular or plural after optional parentheses, which was closed as a duplicate of the former. But I feel sure someone has asked this same question before on ELU and received a relevant response. – FumbleFingers Nov 9 '14 at 14:21
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    @Kris: Robusto has deleted his first attempt at an answer (though perhaps he can be persuaded to have another go), and I've spent a couple of minutes trying unsuccessfully to find an earlier question dealing with this. Instead of trying to foist it on ELL, why don't you either find an earlier dup or answer the damned question? – FumbleFingers Nov 9 '14 at 14:30
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    @Kris I agree that the semantics are mixed. But this is a very common pattern that arises in a lot of written language. That is why I posted this question here. – Anand Nov 9 '14 at 15:05
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    Stack Exchange is the best (and one of very few useful) among question-and-answer websites in the world. – Kris Nov 10 '14 at 8:19
2

Stack Exchange is the best of the few useful question-and-answer websites on the internet.

If you are referring or comparing a thing to something similar (of the few) then the plural (websites) is required.
If you are being specific about just one thing then;

Stack Exchange is the best question-and-answer website on the internet.

This could be the best answer you get.
This could be the worst of all the answers you get.

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    Rephrasing the sentence voids the question. – Kris Nov 9 '14 at 14:23
  • @Kris wasn't the question: What is the correct way to phrase the intent of this statement in a single sentence? – Joe Dark Nov 9 '14 at 14:27
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    @Joe: But your rephrasings all discard one of the two points made by the original sentence (there are very few useful Q&A websites). – FumbleFingers Nov 9 '14 at 14:43
  • Note: I have fixed a typo in the location of my closing parenthesis. The intent of the statement is to convey that 1) Stack Exchange is the absolute best question-and-answer website on the internet. 2) There are only a few useful question-and-answer websites on the internet. @JoeDark your alternatives fall on either side of the intent without capturing it. Perhaps there is no way to do this without the ugly "(s)" or resorting to multiple (or a compound) sentence(s?). :-) – Anand Nov 9 '14 at 14:44
  • @Anand Perhaps I need another coffee but I'm quite sure that my answer adequately covers the 2 points you mention. – Joe Dark Nov 9 '14 at 14:55
-1

1) Stack Exchange is the best question-and-answer website in the world.

The noun website is in the singular because Stack Exchange is singular, and if something is "the best" the noun (website) is singular. Compare: Facebook and Tumblr are the best social networking websites in the world.

2) Stack Exchange is one of the very few useful question-and-answer websites in the world.

The noun websites is in the plural because Stack Exchange is not the only useful Q&A website in the world.

Now combining the two expressions, "the best" and "one of very few useful" creates the dilemma, should the noun, website, be singular or plural? I would suggest eliminating the parenthesis.

3) Stack Exchange is one of the very few useful and best question-and-answer websites in the world.

OR

4) Stack Exchange is the best and one of the very few useful Q&A websites in the world.

Sentence No.4 is the least ambiguous.

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    -1 because #3 is not a credible English construction. – FumbleFingers Nov 10 '14 at 15:35
  • @FumbleFingers Is that better? I forgot the article in No 2 and 3 – Mari-Lou A Nov 10 '14 at 15:38
  • 'Fraid not! Once you discard the problematic "best" element, it's just a stylistic choice whether to include the article or not. But I can't see that switching the sequence of [the] best and one of very few useful affects the fact that website[s] is being simultaneously (and incompatibly) applied to both singular [the] best and plural very few, regardless of whether we try to parse the latter as "exclusively" qualified by useful or useful Q&A. – FumbleFingers Nov 10 '14 at 15:53
  • @FumbleFingers I don't know what else to say or add. I sincerely thought I was being helpful. Best leave this sort of thing to the experts. – Mari-Lou A Nov 10 '14 at 18:23
  • Don't feel bad! Even Robusto tried and failed to rattle off a definitive answer, and I myself initially failed to recognise that Joe's rephrasing could be considered a "valid" solution. I think OP's friend is close to the truth (the two different statements are simply too semantically / syntactically different to be combined with such loose application of the "deletion of repeated elements" feature of English). It's a "reduction too far". – FumbleFingers Nov 10 '14 at 18:50

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