I spoke this sentence while in a discussion, and something didn't sound right:

Actions have consequences but so do inactions.

Later I thought what could be correct way of saying it.

Is this right?

Actions have consequences but so have inactions.

Which of the two, if any, is correct?

  • 7
    No; the correct way would be to use a singular for inaction. After all, inaction is a state and not an event, so it doesn't really have a plural. So, Actions have consequences, and so does inaction. Saying and so has inaction is less likely, at least in the U.S., where have in the sense of 'possess' is normally not inverted with the subject. Mar 11 '17 at 23:32
  • Also worth pointing out that there is an implied phrase at the end. Actions have consequences, but so does inaction [have consequences]. You can think of it that way. The word do here is a helper verb. Consider the difference: he has versus he does have. The latter is more emphatic.
    – ktm5124
    Mar 11 '17 at 23:40
  • 1
    The idiom so does X can be used with any verb - for example: "Actions create consequences, but so do inactions." The idiom does not change when the verb happens to be have. Mar 11 '17 at 23:44
  • 1
    @JohnLawler Would it be okay if I produced an answer? I think your first comment answered his question almost completely, if not completely... but it wouldn't hurt for this question to have an answer.
    – ktm5124
    Mar 11 '17 at 23:44
  • 2
    Subject-Auxiliary Inversion reverses the order of the subject noun phrase and the first auxiliary verb. It occurs in questions (You have finished ~ Have you finished?), for instance. But in US English, have meaning 'possess' is not an auxiliary and doesn't invert. Americans understand people who say Have you the time? but they understand them not to be American English speakers, who'd say Do you have the time? with Do-Support. Mar 12 '17 at 15:44

I think several things may have made you feel the sentence did not sound right:

First and foremost, what follows "so" in those constructions has to be an auxiliary or a verb like "be," which does not require an auxiliary. In traditional British English, where "have/has" do not require an auxiliary in the present simple tense, their inversion will be acceptable.

This is taken from Swan's "Practical English Usage" (3rd edition):

So - auxiliary

Therefore, in the present simple tense "do/does" are always correct after "so," and "has/have" (as main verbs) are only partially acceptable in British English (notice the example I have a headache. So have I above.)

Another thing that might be creating a sense of unbalance -- though this may be subject to different opinions -- is the plural of "actions" and the singular of "inaction." In a structure like the one at issue, I'd prefer plural-plural, or singular-singular. "Action" can be used as a non-count noun, synonymous with "acting," but "actions" sounds better. "Inaction" is only a non-count noun. Then, the best solution would perhaps be to choose a pair of plural opposites, like "actions and omissions." These two words appear as antonyms on many very well-written pages on the Internet, like this one: https://pages.stolaf.edu/ein/themes/acts-and-omissions/

Finally, the opposites already show contrast, so I think the use of "but" may be redundant and inappropriate. I'd say:

  • Actions have consequences, and so do omissions.
  • 1
    'Omissions' is not specific enough to be used as the antonym of 'actions'. Mar 12 '17 at 0:01
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth In philosophy and religion, for example, they are usually presented as antonyms. The plural also contributes to creating balance between the two terms.
    – Gustavson
    Mar 12 '17 at 0:09
  • I know the terms 'sins of c/omission' but not 'sins of action'. I'm happy with the string 'failure to act'. But I'm not familiar with 'omission' being used in place of 'failure to act'. Mar 12 '17 at 0:18
  • What does all this have to do with the question, which about using have vs. do? Mar 12 '17 at 0:23
  • @michael.hor257k There's no doubt about "do" being the correct choice. We are just discussing better ways of putting the idea, if you don't mind.
    – Gustavson
    Mar 12 '17 at 0:24

John Lawler answered your question in his first comment. But, I would like to think that I added a tiny drop of clarity. Thus, I will be so bold as to create an answer.

Actions have consequences, but so does inaction [have consequences].

I included the expansion in brackets, as it might make more sense grammatically. Might I also suggest a dramatic way of saying it?

Actions have consequences, but so does the failure to act.


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