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My question is should I use was or were in the following sentence:

...this is one of the messages, which was/were sent in the space 37 years ago.

Which one I should use?

closed as off-topic by Misti, Drew, Chenmunka, andy256, tchrist Jan 16 '15 at 23:41

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    On the other hand, the comma with was means that that one of the messages was sent into space (and the others weren't). Either verb can be used, depending on how many messages went into space. – Andrew Leach Jan 14 '15 at 14:27
  • Ah, Indeed @AndrewLeach is correct. I got misled by the form leading me to pick "the right one" rather than fully considering each. – Jon Hanna Jan 14 '15 at 14:50
  • @Daniel That comma you deleted is critically important (and removing it invalidates both answers received so far). – Andrew Leach Jan 14 '15 at 15:04
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It depends on which noun or nouns the phrase "went into space" is modifying. If a number of messages went into space and this is one of them then the verb belongs to 'messages' and is 'were'. If there were a number of messages and this one alone went into space, then the verb belongs to 'one' and is 'was'. Either your comma is there by mistake, in which case it would be 'messages which were' or the comma is there on purpose which would make it 'one of the messages, which was'. The latter sounds a bit awkward so if that were the case I'd rephrase.

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I would normally use the expression “one of” with a plural noun.

Reason:

It could be a group of people or things. “One of” informs the listener that you are talking about one member of the group.

Since you are talking about one message of the many messages, you use a singular verb after the plural noun.

"...this is one of the messages, which was sent in the space 37 years ago".

  • Here is the dilemma, because the point is that all messages are sent and I'm talking about one of these sent messages. – Daniel Jan 14 '15 at 14:52
  • This seems to me to make things more confusing, not less. – Matt E. Эллен Jan 14 '15 at 15:32

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