Consider the phrase:

You have come one (if not many) times to my house ...

I am not sure if the noun "times" should be plural or not. It sounds better with plural, but this answer states that parenthesis are used for things which can be safely removing without affecting the meaning of the sentence. In that sense, if you get rid of the info in parenthesis the singular should be used.

Is there a canonical answer here? This related question has just one answer, which to be honest is not very helpful (and has just one vote). Also, my question has the extra issue of having a parenthesis, which surely makes it distinctive from the one linked above.

  • How does it sound better to you to use a plural noun with one, a determiner? You have come one time to my house, if not many (times). – mahmud k pukayoor Aug 31 '18 at 11:56
  • @mahmudkoya It just does, but I'm not sure about it. I'm not a native English speaker. Hence the question here. – luchonacho Aug 31 '18 at 12:14
  • I don't think anyone would be likely to say You've [done something] one time in any normal context - it's invariably You did it [only] once. – FumbleFingers Aug 31 '18 at 13:50

The problem isn’t with the agreement of time/s - it’s the bit in the brackets.

To test, first consider the sentence without the parenthetical phrase. Setting aside the issue of once vs one time, time needs to agree numerically with one.

When you add the parenthetical phrase, it needs to work with the existing sentence. Your example clearly doesn’t, hence the dilemma about agreement. Neither singular nor plural agreement sounds satisfactory in that sentence.

The solution is to reword. Here’s one possibility:

  • You have come once (if not many times) to my house.

It still sounds clunky, but that’s because of the unnatural jump between ‘one’ and ‘many’ visits. Starting with the main sentence leads to at least once but the parenthetical makes that a gross understatement. I’d suggest leaving “once” implicit:

  • You have visited my house, probably often.

Even house can probably be left to the context. The trailing parenthetical interrupts the sentence’s flow, but keeping it preserves the hiccup of the original parenthetical as well as the original quote’s once-many sense:

  • You visited, probably often.

tl;dr If you introduce a parenthetical phrase that breaks the agreement of the main sentence, you should rephrase.

  • You have visited my house, probably often is an awkward rephrasing. I'd suggest simply doing away with the parentheses: You have come one, if not many, times to my house. – Peter Shor Aug 31 '18 at 15:20
  • @PeterShor I was trying to retain the word “house” - such as when someone’s trying to muster their courage to ring the doorbell and only does so after multiple attempts. On second thoughts, “you have visited, probably often” works anyway. The trailing parenthetical retains the hiccup of the original. – Lawrence Aug 31 '18 at 15:25
  • Or probably more than once, if you want to stick more closely to the original. – Peter Shor Aug 31 '18 at 15:58
  • @PeterShor Thanks. I considered that, but it doesn’t far enough to echo the original’s “many”. – Lawrence Aug 31 '18 at 16:00
  • typo: go far enough – Lawrence Aug 31 '18 at 23:05

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.