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I am confused about this sentence.

"Having updated and accurate maps of land use aid regional planners to plan for the future."

The verb "to aid" in this sentence has to take an "s"?

"Having updated and accurate maps of land use aids regional planners to plan for the future."

  • The sentence makes no sense. Where did you find it? – BillJ Apr 13 '20 at 7:22
  • It's mine. Really, you mean the meaning? – Almada Apr 13 '20 at 7:25
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    Yes, you need an s. Gerunds are considered singular. And the sentence makes perfect sense to me, though I don’t know what a ‘map of land use’ is exactly and I would prefer ‘aids … in planning’ over ‘aids … to plan’. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 13 '20 at 7:41
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Thank you for your answer. Land use maps are are extracted from satellite images, describing how people are using the land. They are useful in monitoring urban expansion for example. – Almada Apr 13 '20 at 7:59
  • I mistakenly took "having" to be the perfect auxiliary in a perfect tense VP, whereas it is actually intended to be the stative "have", expressing possession. Clause subjects take singular agreement even if their object is a plural NP like "maps". Singular "aids" is thus correct. – BillJ Apr 13 '20 at 10:09
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As it stands the sentence has two parts which may lead the reader astray on a first reading. Firstly, having updated... may be interpreted as a verb phrase with updated as its past participle.

Instead, having is the ing form of the verb to have, here meaning to be in the possession of. And updated is an attributive adjective describing maps.

The second point at which the reader may go astray is in the string land use aid. Here aid may be interpreted as the head of a noun phrase, i.e. aid in using land. Whereas aid is in fact a verb here.

So, the intended interpretation of the sentence is:

Subject: Having updated and accurate maps of land use

Predicate: aids regional planners to plan for the future.

Since the grammatical number of the subject is singular, the verb needs to agree and be singular too. In this case, the third person form of the present simple.

It is not uncommon that writers apply faulty verb concord or agreement to a plural word in a complex subject phrase.

If you are the writer of this sentence you might want to rephrase it to avoid the possible momentary misinterpretations which lead readers up a garden path.

  • Another astray-leader: in land use, I initially read use as a verb (‘having the maps employ aid regional planners… wait, what?’). A simple workaround would be to start with ‘having access to’, which would fix most of it. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 13 '20 at 8:01
  • @Janus Bahs Jacquet . Good point. I hadn't noticed that one! – Shoe Apr 13 '20 at 8:03
  • Thank you @Shoe for your detailed answer. I understand the ambiguity that this sentence might create. First time to hear about a garden-path sentence. Very informative .. Thanks – Almada Apr 13 '20 at 8:08

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