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I am proofreading an essay by someone whose first language is not English. The following sentence I know, just by reading, is not right:

All of the Algerians are still one of the individuals who make up a group.

What they are saying in a convoluted way is that Algerians are individuals who make up a group.

But is anyone able to list the specific linguistic or grammatical or logical rules the sentence violates?

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    I don't think this is a structural problem; it's a semantic problem (thus it's a logical rule that's violated, to use your terminology). "All of the Algerians" cannot be "one of the individuals". Tortured indeed! – jbeldock Jan 11 '16 at 4:17
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    @jbeldock is correct, 'one of the individuals' will normally be interpreted as referring literally to an individual. If it was changed to '...one of the individual ethnicities...' then it would work. – Gaston Ümlaut Jan 11 '16 at 4:27
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There's nothing wrong with the syntax. Change a couple of nouns and you have a perfectly reasonable sentence:

All of the Algerians are still one of the groups who make up a society.

You might imagine that this a counter to someone, perhaps a Frenchman, who disputes that Algerians together are cohesive enough to make up an identifiable demographic grouping in French society.

The problem is semantic. "All of the Algerians" means more than one person. (There are over 1M people of Algerian descent in France.) It is thus nonsensical to say that all the Algerians are one out of group of people because that is to say that more than one is equal to one.

  • Great answers, thank you all. I see clearly now how the problem with the sentence is indeed semantic. "One of" cannot logically equate to "all of". – Rick Jan 11 '16 at 13:08
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Your person probably wants to say "Each of the Algerians is..." instead. But, contrary to what @deadrat says, there is usually no problem with using "all (of the)" to refer to individual members of a group, e.g.,

  1. All (of the) employees received a raise proportional to their seniority.
  2. All (of the) players touched the ball at least once in the lead-up to the goal.
  3. All (of the) riders were asked to provide a urine sample.

In fact, note the following sentence, which has the intended meaning that the predicate "be point guards" holds of each of of the individuals that make up the group, but not of the group itself. This is the meaning that the OP's colleague intended for "be one of the individuals that...".

  1. All (of the) players in the team are point guards.

Compare to the following, which is odd in the same way as the OP's sentence. It means that, collectively, the players constitute one single point guard. This somehow conjures up a Power Rangers scenario where the players assemble to become parts of a larger entity.

  1. All (of the) players in the team are one point guard.

In short, if you want to use the "All (of the) [noun] are [predicate]" construction, where [predicate] distributes over members of the group denoted by [noun], then [predicate] has to be a bare plural (or an adjective, cf. "all (of the) players are married") rather than a noun phrase headed by "one (of the)".

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It's a simple truism saying actually nothing. Every group consists of single persons who feel part of the group but remain individual persons in many respects all the same.

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