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Terminology clarification first. Let's say, plurality herein means the quality of being plural; the state of being plural or not, which is not the dictionary definition. I couldn't find another appropriate term for it. Well, grammatical numerity? Hmm.


In this sentence, the number (plurality) of the subject changes at the middle of the sentence. The subject was singular, but soon becomes plural.

It's split into two and merges/merge back into one a hundred times.

We can also think of an inverted version of it. The subject was plural, but soon becomes singular.

The two are merged into one and (are)/is split back into two a hundred times.


How do I deal with this kind of plurality? What should I assume its plurality is? Do I have to break it down into two or more sentences?

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    When in doubt, mumble.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Mar 3, 2018 at 19:03
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    Since you used the perfect in the first part of the sentence, the correct form to use would be the past participle, which is invariant for number anyway: “It's split into two and merged back into one a hundred times.”
    – herisson
    Commented Mar 3, 2018 at 19:06
  • @sumelic Thank you for your comment. You're right, the merged one would be the best one. But I think my sentences, which contain intransitive use of merge, are technically not incorrect, though they're not the best. Please take them as just example sentences for the question. Commented Mar 3, 2018 at 19:38

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I would either make the verb agree with the stated subject, or introduce a new pronoun for it.

So either:

It's split into two and merges back into one a hundred times.

or

It's split into two and they merge back into one a hundred times.

(Probably the former option, because it works better with the repetitiveness of the action.)

Likewise:

The two are merged into one and split back into two a hundred times. (I agree with @sumelic that the participle helps here.)

or

The two are merged into one and that is split back into two a hundred times.

Also, I didn't do it here, but I would probably always use a comma before the phrase a hundred times in these examples.

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  • Yes, the cardinality changes and therefore new terms must be introduced. Commented Mar 3, 2018 at 23:25

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