4

I would tend to say

Sara (and all of us) have a lot to think about now.

...but it occurs to me that if I remove the parenthetical it's clearly incorrect. Is it proper to say

Sara (and all of us) has a lot to think about now.

...that sounds really strange to my ear.

Also, does it change the rules in any way if I use an em dash, e.g.

Sara–and all of us–have a lot to think about now.

  • I can't give a definite answer, but I'd usually go: Sara has (and all of us have) a lot to think about now. – Dog Lover Aug 1 '17 at 1:21
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    Trying to make conjunctions and subject-verb agreement do too much work. Use shorter sentences with fewer clauses and less tricky syntax. Especially if you have to ask questions about them on ELU. – John Lawler Aug 1 '17 at 2:41
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    Though the parens should allow us to remove its contents to test what remains, this is different. The 'all of us' amends the singular subject by expanding it to plural. If you can see it that way, the subject changes to plural and takes on a plural verb: A single grape—make that two—are what I need right now. – Yosef Baskin Aug 1 '17 at 2:42
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    @Yosef Baskin Very cogent, though you'll be shot by the prescriptivists. I'd not mark your example wrong, but 'A single grape is what I need right now. [No,/Better] make that two.' might displease fewer people. And Jack Nicholson can deal with people not liking the conversational deletion in 'Better make that ...'. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 1 '17 at 10:00
4

Two references say the verb should be singular, and I have seen none that say it should be plural.

"Rule 3. Parentheses, despite appearances, are not part of the subject. Example: Joe (and his trusty mutt) was always welcome. If this seems awkward, try rewriting the sentence: Example: Joe (accompanied by his trusty mutt) was always welcome." Grammar Book

"Incorrect: The president (and his assistant) were expected to arrive by 10:00 a.m." The Punctuation Guide

  • 3
    Now we get to the questions 'Who is the credible authority coming up with these rules?' 'Do they draw on extensive and peer-reviewed research?' 'Have they reviewed actual practice recently?' and 'Does sounding peculiar count for as much as or even more than not obeying some rule or 'rule'?' (Orwell VI). I'd certainly go with John Lawler here and say that a rewrite is far better. I consider that "The president (and his assistant) was expected to arrive by 10:00 a.m." may obey some parties' ideas of formal correctness, but is unacceptable on Orwellian grounds. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 1 '17 at 9:03
1

The general rule with parenthetical expressions, is a complete and grammatically correct sentence, when the expression is removed. Parenthetical expressions are meant to clarify, though they do not change the grammatical structure of the primitive sentence. The use of the conjunction 'and' is incorrect. The verb must precede the expression in order to preserve the grammar. As it is stated in the comments above. Example: 'Sarah has, as do we all, a lot to think about.' Take out the 'as do we all' and the sentence is still complete, and the grammar intact.

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    This is better in some ways, but can you imagine this register being used in say 'Eastenders'? ''Sarah's got a lot to think about now. We all have." – Edwin Ashworth Aug 1 '17 at 9:10
  • Marvelous point!...and I think I have to add a few more characters to make acknowledgement stick. – Abstraction is everything. Aug 1 '17 at 9:15
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    Apparently, 'EastEnders', while being slightly different from 'A Tale of Two Cities', also uses two capitals. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 1 '17 at 9:23
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The sentence sounds vernacular. As though the speaker had pivoted their idea mid-sentence. I don't believe parentheses would be appropriate to communicate this, but would rather see em dashes.

More about usage of em dashes from APA Style Blog: http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2010/09/computer-editing-tip-em-dashes.html

  • A parenthesis set off by dashes (or commas) rather than parentheses is still a parenthesis. Have you a reason why you think curved brackets should be abandoned in favour of dashes in this particular example? The linked article doesn't contrast differences in availability or effect between the punctuation variants available. (Though I too would prefer dashes here if I couldn't rewrite.) – Edwin Ashworth Aug 1 '17 at 9:34
  • @EdwinAshworth "The text between the dashes is typically a digression or outright interruption of the main idea of the sentence." I see this as different from the typical use of a parenthetical, which would be used to clarify or specify an idea/sub-idea. In this case, it's an interjection and the speaker re-appropriates the entire sentence after saying it. – user1661469 Aug 2 '17 at 12:21
  • There are many uses for parentheticals, and few decent overall analyses (and I can't trace the one that's at the back of my mind at the moment). Short of a decent paper on the subject, Mark Nichol's '8 types of parenthetical phrases' is an attempt to show some of the accepted uses of parentheticals. Corrective, mitigating and contrastive uses are not given (as such, at any rate). Interjections are. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 2 '17 at 12:55
  • @EdwinAshworth I think I was wrong to use the term 'interjection' after reading more about it. The phrase in the OP example is physically interjected, but isn't an Interjection. I suppose the point is the idea/meaning of the sentence changes because of it, whereas a parenthetical is an aside that wouldn't be expected to alter the meaning of the parent sentence. – user1661469 Aug 2 '17 at 13:19
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(I encouraged @Yoseph-Baskin to expand his comment into an answer as I believe it's correct. Since he hasn't, I'm going to make it one myself.)

"Though the parens should allow us to remove its contents to test what remains, this is different. The 'all of us' amends the singular subject by expanding it to plural. If you can see it that way, the subject changes to plural and takes on a plural verb: A single grape—make that two—are what I need right now."

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