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Curious if this textbook example is correct. According to the textbook, "are" is incorrect and "is" should be used instead. Why is this?

After days of testimony, the jury, including its two alternative members, are in deliberations and expected to deliver a verdict this afternoon.

(not naming the textbook so it makes cheating harder)

I would understand if the sentence lacked the including its two alternative members phrase, but I think that the inclusion of the plural phrase would require a verb which agrees with a plural subject. In this special case, how does the rule apply? Why?

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    To a certain degree this is a matter of opinion, but I would have used "is". In England, however, I suspect that "are" would be considered correcter. – Hot Licks Sep 8 '19 at 22:11
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    @JasonBassford No, this is not a duplicate of that question at all. Read what the OP say his reasoning is for why not this isn’t about that at all. DEMO: “Each potential judge, including the zealous close-voter and any of his fellow cliff-jumping lemmings to come, has been instructed to disregard the putative duplicate for its specious putativity.” – tchrist Sep 9 '19 at 0:57
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    @JasonBassford The OP writes: “but I think that the inclusion of the plural phrase would require a verb which agrees with a plural subject”. That’s where they’ve gotten it wrong, so that’s what they need answered. Nothing about collective nouns at all. – tchrist Sep 9 '19 at 1:25
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    @HotLicks I think it depends on the context in colloquial BrEn. Consider "The jury's out", "England are all out for 250", "The workforce has downed tools" and "The crew have mutinied". All of those are perfectly acceptable in normal usage whether or not they are formally correct. – BoldBen Sep 9 '19 at 7:21
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    A parenthetical is usually considered not to have any bearing on the syntax of the matrix sentence. However, there is no reason why notional agreement (if the analyst chooses to adopt it) might not be informed by the information in the parenthetical. // Here, as a synesitist (don't look that up), I'd certainly choose 'are' in both cases; I don't see that this parenthetical makes a scrap of difference. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 9 '19 at 13:33
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Verb agreement in “singular X including plural Y is/are”

The OP stated:

but I think that the inclusion of the plural phrase would require a verb which agrees with a plural subject

It doesn’t work that way.

  • PLEASE NOTE: This question is not about whether jury is singular or plural, even though the textbook has clearly been written by someone who believes the jury are never instructed by the judge. That is completely immaterial. This question is not about collective nouns at all!

    It’s about whether when you attach a prepositional phrase with a plural object to a to a singular subject this changes the number of the verb needed for agreement in “singular X including plural Y is/are”.


In short, they are simply trying to trick you into misapplying mathematics to grammatical agreement to get you to swap the number from their preferred singular into plural for erroneous reasons.

Here’s a simpler demonstration of the trick they’re trying to pull on you:

More than one person was sick that day.

The algebraist in you might deduce that since only one alone is singular, and that more than one is by definition something that is not one, then surely the verb there must be were.

But that’s wrong because language is not math. The agreement law governing the language here is a law unto itself, not tricks of sophisticated sophistry or mathematical deduction. For numeric agreement, more than one is still just one.

This is the same thing as happens with prepositions:

One person like those who robbed me that night was standing in line.

Here the subject one person is connected to a plural noun using the preposition like. That doesn’t change the grammatical number of the subject in any way.

Whether you think of including as a preposition or as nonfinite transitive verb acting as a modifier (sometimes called a participle), it still has no effect on the number of the noun it modifies for purposes of grammatical concord:

Only one other person, including immediate family members, is ever allowed in the hospital room at the same time.

The including bit doesn’t change the number of one person for agreement with the verb. This right here is what they’re trying to confuse you with.

Their choice of “jury” risks confusing students by making them think the grammatical number of collective nouns matters here. It doesn’t.

Unfortunately, they’ve only confused themselves. That’s because as a collective noun, jury is often construed to take a plural verb. So some students will not understand the question because it wouldn’t change anything if it were. So it would be a pointless exercise.

Here are a few citations:

  1. Besides, in criminal prosecutions the jury are the judges of both law and fact.

    Jury Nullification: The Evolution of a Doctrine, by Clay Conrad; the Cato Institute, 1999.

  2. The jury are instructed that when evidence is given tending to show admissions made by the defendants...

    The Bisbee Massacre: Robbery, Murder and Retribution in the Arizona Territory, 1883–1884, by David Grassé; McFarland & Company, 2017.

  3. If the Jury were judges of the law, as well as of the fact, much evil would arise from arbitrary decisions.

    The Carolina Law Journal, Volume 1; by Abraham Blanding, 1831.

  4. The jury were out for less than an hour.

    Kilo 17; by Harry Ferguson; Bloomsbury, 2003.

You’ll find many more where those came from, examples like “the jury are divided” or “the jury are still deliberating”.

So it’s up to you which way you want to swing. You can say jury are arguing about it if you want to treat them as several people, or you can say that the jury has returned a unanimous verict. The choice is yours.

But in a rigged demo like this would-be test, you have no such freedom of expression. They are trying to trick you into thinking prepositions can change the number of the noun they modify because of some fallacious mathematical reasoning that doesn’t apply to language. For that trick to work, the mind of the author can never have contemplated having jury ever legbitately take a plural verb, however divided they might be.

So it’s a rigged demo that oversimplifies and uses a bad example to attempt to justify its trick. It allows for only a naïve perhaps even provincial view of the grammatical number of collective nouns.

And don’t let anyone tell you that these things never happen in America. They do.

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  • I think this is a great answer - I love the citations! Why so many downvotes? – Ben Aubin Sep 9 '19 at 13:09
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    @BenAubin Because many downvoters are clueless, envious and mistaken. Or as my grandmother used to say quick, certain and wrong. – Lambie Sep 9 '19 at 14:28
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"...the jury, including its two alternative members, is/are in deliberations..."

There are two issues with the above that have bearing on whether to use "is" or "are":

1. Is the phrase "including its two alternative members" part of the subject?

No, it is not.

The phrase "including its two alternatives" is merely a parenthetical phrase that nonrestrictively modifes the subject "jury."

For further reference, see the following link and review the point labeled "5":

https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/grammar/subject_verb_agreement.html

Or see the follwing link and review what is labeled "Rule 5a":

https://www.grammarbook.com/grammar/subjectVerbAgree.asp

To be clear, the only word that can enjoin an additional subject to a prior singular subject and make the subject count plural is "and." Phrases, like ones starting with "along with" and "including," cannot.

2. Is the subject "jury" singular or plural?

The word "jury" is a collective noun for "jurors" (i.e. "juror" in plural). When it comes to how collective nouns are counted, the rules are not black-and-white.

Generally speaking, British English (BrE) counts collective nouns as plural, while American English (AmE) counts collective nouns as singular. That means that in BrE, one would generally say:

"...the jury, including its two alternative members, are in deliberations..."

But in AmE, one would generally say:

"...the jury, including its two alternative members, is in deliberations..."

You'll notice I said "generally." It is not ungrammatical in BrE to say "is," nor is it ungrammatical in AmE to say "are." That's grammar, though, not style.

As regards style, if you are to follow a specific style guide (i.e., Hart's Rules, Chicago Manual of Style, MLA, APA, etc.), then it may dictate how you are to treat collective nouns, whether as singular or as plural, so you should consult that style guide. Otherwise, you can do what you like, my only caveat being this:

Except in a few special cases (e.g., the collective noun "police"), lay Americans tend to see using plural conjugations with collective nouns as ungrammatical, so you may be seen as such if you do so, like if you say "the jury are" to an American.

The converse is not true of lay Brits. While plural conjugation (e.g., "are") is more often used for collective nouns, singular conjugation (e.g., "is") isn't perceived as wrong but instead, if perceived as anything at all, is perceived as emphasizing the group acting as one, as a singularity, and deemphasizing their plurality.

Conclusion

Since the phrase "including its two alternative members" does not make a singular subject plural, the question of whether to use "is" or "are" falls to whether the collective noun "jury" is counted as singular or plural, respectively. Whether "jury" is counted as singular or plural as a subject for verb conjugation, generally speaking, depends on whether the English is American English or British English, respectively. In normal usage, if the English is American, then "jury" is all but invariably counted as singular, so you'd all but invariably use the singular conjugation "is," but if the English is British, then "jury" is typically counted as plural, so you'd typically use the plural conjugation "are."

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After days of testimony, the jury, including its two alternative members, are in deliberations and expected to deliver a verdict this afternoon.

Preliminary point: the intervening phrase "including its two alternative members" is a supplement and not part of the subject, which is just "the jury". Supplements are not modifiers; rather, they present supplementary, non-integrated content.

The collective noun "jury" belongs in the same group of collectives as "committee"; it's a singular noun and hence for agreement purposes its 'default' number is singular. However, plural override is optional, indeed preferred in some contexts in BrE, while AmE, we're told, has the opposite preference.

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