Trial and Errors
By Annette Rey
Another one of those errors has raised its head. This one might be a bit excusable.
An attorney was speaking to a judge hearing a trial in a murder case. The attorney fumbled with paperwork while he spoke. He said:
“What we want to test is items….”
Okay. I laughed.
I also understand he might have felt rushed. He might not have been able to find exactly what he was looking for in the volumes of paper he held. I do not know his level of experience; was he a rookie? It has to be stressful to present a case in court. For all of these reasons, I am willing to cut the guy a break for his grammatical error.
You tell me. What is the error?
The error is – items is plural and requires a plural verb. The word is is singular.
The attorney’s noun and verb did not agree. He should have said, “What we want to test are items…”
To make this a bit clearer, think of this problem in reverse. Put the noun first and follow it with the proper verb. Items are, dogs are, men are, trees are – all of these are plural and have a plural verb.
Singular examples: The girl is, my car is, pork is, a cat is – all of the nouns are singular and have a singular verb.
(And, a better sentence structure from the outset would have been “We want to test items…”)
I am beginning to think I am one of few people who hear with a grammatical ear. I am feeling like a critic. Is anyone else out there who catches these things? Is anyone else out there writing about them? Please let me know. Together we can share our harmless observations and compare notes.
We can also get a chance to laugh at ourselves.