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In the sentence below, would this be considered a singular subject or a plural subject?

"Looking forward to the excitement, and the wonderful appearing of the great King and our teacher, Mr. Jones."

King & Mr. Jones = 1 person

King & Mr. Jones = 2 persons

** I've been told that the comma after "teacher" makes it a plural subject. Is this correct?

If true, is that the only thing that makes the sentence a plural subject?

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  • 2
    The comma doesn’t disambiguate in this case.
    – Lawrence
    Mar 2, 2018 at 15:12
  • So,there is no way to know for certain if the subject is 1 person or 2? Mar 2, 2018 at 15:26
  • 2
    Kings are rarely referred to as 'Mr Tudor' etc. Mar 2, 2018 at 15:29
  • 2
    @DawniMartinez It's ambiguous. "Mr Jones" might even be the name of the person that the speaker is speaking to, rather than one of those an appearance. (Compare: "How are you, Mr Jones?")
    – Lawrence
    Mar 2, 2018 at 17:09
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    On the level Dawni's asking, I don[t understand how "The… king and … Mr Jones could be anything but two people. Partly because of that and partly underlying that, I don't understand why this topic belongs here rater than in English Language Learners. Mar 12, 2018 at 18:58

1 Answer 1

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So first of all "King and our teacher" is not a subject at all, it is the object of the preposition "of", as written above. Of course it also isn't a complete sentence. But I think what you are probably thinking of is that the "king and teacher" is a parenthetical, set off by two commas. Let me use a simpler sentence:

Looking forward to the appearance of, the king and teacher, Mr Jones.

Here "the king and teacher is parenthetical, and is used to describe Mr Jones. Both commas are required. In that case it is plainly singular. However, the sentence is kind of ugly; it would be better to put the parenthetical at the end "... of Mr Jones, the king and teacher."

However without a comma after "of" Mr. Jones is just stuck on the end, and it doesn't make much sense except if, as a commentator suggested, it is the the name of the interlocutor. (Though that is hard to tell because this isn't actually a sentence at all, having only gerunds and no verb.)

Another option might be that the comma is an indicator of apposition, in which case the of object of "of" would potentially be plural. In this case "our teacher, Mr. Jones" has the two nouns in apposition, meaning the refer to the same thing. So here the preposition might refer to the king, and also a separate person "the teacher" whose name happens to be Mr. Jones.

However even in this case it is perfectly possible that King and teacher refer to the same person, called Mr. Jones. So, if this is the case, it is still ambiguous.

In the case where you insert it parenthetically the ambiguity is resolved by the fact that it is one person, so King and teacher both refer to the same person, Mr. Jones. If it is addressed to the interlocutor (with no comma after of) then it is ambiguous as to whether the object of the preposition is singular or plural.

Context would be required to resolve the ambiguity.

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  • Or "as well as" instead of "and".
    – Spencer
    Dec 24, 2019 at 19:15

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