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My cousin is one of those people who (love, loves) to eat pizza.

According to the rules of grammar, the relative pronoun "who" refers to the plural noun "people". Therefore, the correct verb choice is "love".

However, in reading the meaning of the sentence as constructed i.e. "My cousin is people who love to eat pizza." An awkward arrangement used to satisfy the rule that the pronoun agrees with the nearer noun.

Notice that if the relative pronoun "who" refers to the indefinite pronoun "one" then the meaning of the sentence reads "My cousin is one who loves to eat pizza."

Question: Why can't the sentence use "loves" instead of "love"?

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Just like you said, typically the subject-verb agreement rules require a plural verb in this case. It's simply a rule of grammar.

One of...

This phrase usually is followed by a plural noun, which requires a plural verb: He is one of the men who have risen quickly to the top; she is one of those people who get things done.

(http://stylemanual.ngs.org/home/A/agreement-subject-verb)

  • +1 for this, it helped me. I was confused as well because after reading both ways out loud, they both sound correct. After analyzing even more, I would've argued that- He loves to eat pizza, They love to eat pizza, He is one who loves to eat pizza, He is one of many who love to eat pizza, He is one of those(the many) who loves to eat pizza... because he is singular... but then I realized that the verb pertains to the many who love to eat pizza and not the singular he – MegaMark Feb 13 '16 at 6:34
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Your second way of parsing this sentence (My cousin is one who loves to eat pizza) is fine, and it justifies the use of 'love.' A style guide may give you one answer and a strict grammarian may give you another, based on whether you want the sentence to communicate the idea more clearly or be more mechanically correct.

  • 'My cousin is one of [those people who love to eat pizza].' is the normal sense. But 'The people in Elbonia all hate pizza' may be countered by 'My cousin is [one of those people] who loves to eat pizza.' – Edwin Ashworth Oct 16 '15 at 23:37
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The relative pronouns are definite pronouns and their antecedents are noun phrases, not nouns. Ordinarily, the number of a noun phrase is determined by the number of its head noun, but in your example, there are two noun phrases which could be antecedents for the relative pronoun "who", and there are two nouns which could be the heads of those two possible antecedents, "one" and "people":

My cousin is [NP one of those people who loves to eat pizza].

My cousin is one of [NP those people who love to eat pizza].

So, as I understand the syntax of the construction, either "loves" or "love" should be grammatical.

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