3

This is best illustrated with an example:

Nikkie has 7 children. Sam has no children. Sam thinks Nikkie's kids are cute, but she thinks it would be a lot of work to raise them all together.

Sam: "Your children are so cute, but I think 7 children (1) is or (2) are too many to raise together!"

First of all, I do understand that plural nouns require plural verbs, and yes, "child/children" is a countable noun; thus "Your children are so cute." However, as I think of the meaning of the phrase "7 children" more and more, doesn't it become a sort of measurement like dollars, miles, liters, etc?

Like we say, "1,000,000 dollars is a lot of money," should't we say "7 children is too many to raise together"? Or am I over-analyzing here?

  • The fact that you wanted to use too many indicates you are thinking of 7 children as countable. Child is not a collective noun. The context is completely different from when you use a family with 7 children. – user140086 Oct 10 '15 at 10:58
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    I doubt that many people would object to the proximal pull of 'a lot' in 'Six to seven children is a lot'. The notional agreement of '1,000,000 dollars is a lot of money' is surely the only acceptable version nowadays, and I have no problem with using a rather more distant notional agreement for '7 children is too many to raise together' as short for the idea 'trying to raise 7 children together – that's too many'. I'd prefer it to plural agreement (you're addressing the situation rather than Ali, Ben, Charlotte, Denzil ...). Bacon and eggs is my favourite breakfast. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 10 '15 at 12:35
  • @EdwinAshworth Edwin if you repost your comment as an answer, I would totally pick it as my preferred answer! Thanks a lot! It really helped me! – N.R. in Seoul Oct 10 '15 at 13:45
  • I've a feeling this has been addressed before (perhaps not for this particular example). Hence my reluctance to post as an 'answer'. I haven't found any duplicates, though, so will do. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 10 '15 at 16:14
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There are three often conflicting 'rules' that operate when one is deciding what verb agreement to use in less obvious cases: the traditional simplistic 'obvious/surface' rule, often called disingenuously 'grammatical agreement' (as if the other two weren't); proximity agreement (more than one boy is here); and notional / logical agreement. There is ample scope for people to disagree on which one should prevail in individual cases.

I doubt that many people would object to the proximal pull of 'a lot' in

Six to seven children is a lot.

– though I'd say the underlying factor is the notion of a large (and demanding) family group. The notional agreement of '1,000,000 dollars is a lot of money' is surely the only acceptable version nowadays, even though dollars are of course etically countable; where it makes sense, discrete measures are often treated as if they were continuous (and thus as mass concepts). Confetti (though etically count) is treated as mass, and I have no problem with using similar notional agreement for

7 children is too many to raise together.

as short for the idea 'trying to raise 7 children together – that's too many'. In fact, I'd prefer it to plural agreement (you're addressing the situation, a 7-child family, rather than Ali, Ben, Charlotte, Denzil ...). I don't think that there are many anglophones who would object to

Bacon and eggs is my favourite breakfast.

(notionally, A meal of bacon and eggs is ...)

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