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Example 1:

Three gangsters, whose names are unknown, robbed a bank.

We talk about three gangsters and we use plural form. Everything is clear here.

Example 2:

Consider the following passage from a hypothetical grammar book, or maybe corporate style guide for in-house writers.

  • With simple sentences - use a comma.
  • With complex sentences and in cases when the type of sentence is unknown - use semicolon.

Here, only the second part is the subject of my interest:

  • With complex sentences and in cases when the type of sentence is unknown - use semicolon.

We say "in cases" (plural) because it's not one, single case. There could be different cases. So we use plural form. Okay.

But then, we say "type of sentence" (singular). Why? Isn't it very illogical? Why we use singular form after plural?

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    Two plural forms suggest that in each case there can be more than one type of sentence. What they say here is, more of less: "in all the cases in which the type of sentence of a given case is unknown". "The type of sentence" does not refer to any particular type. It is the generic "the" Note that probably even you wouldn't suggest "types of sentences" but "types of sentence". – Jules Cocovin May 13 at 18:40
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    Does this answer your question? Do you pluralize the singular possessions of individual members of a plural group? Here, 'With simple sentences – use a comma' is shorthand for 'With a member of the set of simple sentences – use a comma'. 'Boys, remember to bring your compass' and 'Boys, remember to bring your compasses' can mean different things in the UK (the second is ambiguous). – Edwin Ashworth May 13 at 18:50
  • @EdwinAshworth I'm not sure the linked answer gives me an answer to my own question. Though it is useful on its own. I added it to my bookmarks. – john c. j. May 13 at 19:05
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Try splitting the sentence in half and using the plural in both halves.

With complex sentences and in cases

when the types of sentences are unknown - use semicolons.

Sounds a little strange right?

Despite there being multiple, theoretical cases, in each case, we are concerned with a single sentence in particular. More importantly, the type of said sentence. Therefore, it uses the singular.

Hope my explanation makes a bit of sense.

Maybe these two similar examples will help, one with the singular and one plural

In battles, when the type of weapon is important - choose wisely.

In battles, when the types of weapons are important - choose wisely.

The first sentence insinuates that you have one weapon, the second that you have multiple. Both are grammatically correct, just have slightly different meanings.

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    But 'Men, don't forget to pick up your rifles from the armoury' would not lead many to think that there would be many men taking more than one. Context plays a large role hereabouts. / And I don't consider your 'Try splitting the sentence in half and using the plural in both halves' to be safe; 'John and Jill are here.' // Certainly the 'singular form ...' or the 'plural form for singular possessions of individual members of a plural group' can disambiguate on occasion, but in your example, 'type of weapon' is itself a set. – Edwin Ashworth May 14 at 11:37

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