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While chatting with a friend about Rio 2016, I wanted to write the following sentence:

The medal standings you should be looking at is the one per capita.

Is this correct (grammar-wise, of course)? Does the word "standings" in this context hold a singular verb? What confuses me is the s at the end of the word and the fact that the word translating it in my native langauge is singular.

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Your sentence sounds completely fine to me. That is because I parse "standings" as a contraction of something longer and singular.

"Standing" as a singular refers (in this instance) to the state of one particular nation. A set of standings contains standings for many nations. When you say "medal standings" it is short for "a set of medal standings". "a set" is singular (it is a collective noun).

  • Interesting, I wasn't looking at it from that point of view. So you would refer to a single row of the standings table as a standing for the country X? – Alessandro Aug 11 '16 at 11:25
  • @Alessandro - Technically I could, yes, though it's not very usual. I might say "Let's have a look at Germany's standing in the medal table" I suppose. The reason I put in in there was to clarify that, in my understanding, "standings" is technically plural (although, as per the rest of my answer, it's often used as a singular). – AndyT Aug 11 '16 at 13:28
  • You are going about this the wrong way, IMO. One option is to lose the passive construction, and with it the untidy inverse copula. "You should be looking at the per-capita based standings." Alternatively, "the per-capita based medal standings are what you should be looking at." – Phil Sweet Aug 11 '16 at 14:52
  • @PhilSweet - Was that comment directed at me or at the OP? The OP asked whether it was grammatical, which I have posted an answer to. Advice on better sentence formation isn't really on topic, but is certainly not related to my answer. I could understand if you posted it as a comment on the question. But then there's a far simpler rewording solution: replace "standings" with "table". – AndyT Aug 11 '16 at 14:56
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    @PhilSweet My sentence was just an example. Of course I could use another construction, but that wasn't my point. I was asking if it should be used as a singular or a plural noun. – Alessandro Aug 11 '16 at 22:55

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