Submitted by jenga on January 25, 2004

Was it like that or Were you just joking?

Whilst happily typing away my math report, I came upon this slight roadblock...

“We observed a triangle created by the basketball pole and replicated a smaller triangle that was much more scaled down in size, but each of its sides WERE still in proportion to the larger triangle’s. ”

Please take note of the entirely capitalized “were” that *was* the reason I capitalized it in the first place:’) My absolutely horrible computer supported by its “state-of-the-art” spelling program argue that my “were” should be “was.” Of course, I personally don’t *trust* my computer as it takes some perverse pleasure in pointing out that i spelt “colour” wrong. So can i get backed by a professional opinion, please?

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Yep - *was* is correct because of the noun-verb relationship. The "sides" is what misleads you.

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"Was" is technically correct. However, there's a conflicting school of thought on this type of question, which holds that good grammar should not call attention to itself. If "was" results in a construction that is correct but sounds strained or awkward, go with "were."

This seems like a borderline case to me. In other cases where the noun proximate to the verb is farther away from the root noun, the "inconspicuous" rule seems to make a stronger case.

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Don't do it, Jenga! Don't use "were." You should definitely use "was." "Each" is the subject and it is singular. And regarding which sounds better? That's a matter of opinion. "Were" does not sound better to me because it's incorrect.

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The "who cares about grammar in a math report" attitude is why everyone makes fun of engineers for being unable to express themselves clearly in writing.

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Borderline shmorderline... :) This is a perfectly straighforward case of "drop the prepositional phrase and make what's left over agree." I've trained myself to have an ear for such things, as has anyone else who cares about competent grammar. "Was" is unquestionably the right choice.

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Is this the same speedwell who wrote elsewhere "I especially like it that many speakers, of different dialects, can share views here in a living-language sort of way. Don't you?"

Unquestionable indeed.

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Same in what sense? Are we ever exactly the same from one moment to the next? What is the meaning of life, anyway?

(grin) I may have dropped a few brain cells between one occasion and another. Especially since I've been in meetings for hours and hours watching mouthbreathing secretaries molest the engineering documentation I've spent days writing. Forgive.

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Were sounds okay to me. The rest of the prose is a bit confusing, however.

http://www.phealgud.com/personal.htm

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On second thought, I tend to agree that "each" is the subject. The machine appears to have been right.

http://www.phealgud.com/personal.htm
http://www.phealgud.com/outlook.htm
http://www.phealgud.com/focus.htm

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Thanks for all of the fish.

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Thanks for all of the fish.

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Thanks for all of the fish.

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Anyone intending to be guided by the spellcheck and grammar check programmes in their computer should have themselves admitted to a psychiatric hospital now to save time :)

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ROFL Speedwell re the fate of your engineering document.

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Thanks for all of the fish

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Thanks for all of the fish.

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Thanks for all of the fish.

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Thanks for all of the fish

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Going by strict usage rules, I think the computer may be right. "Each" is singular, so it should be paired with "was."
My natural instinct, however, would be to use "were" as well. It just sounds better, because it immediately follows "sides," which is plural.

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Thanks! I'm just going with "were" simply on the base that i think it sounds better too. Besides, it's a *math* report! Who cares about grammar in a *math* report!

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yeah, I believe the proper word would be "was" since "each" meaning "side" singular is the subject, "were" sounds right because the prepositional phrase "of the sides" ends with a plural word "sides" making you want to follow it with "were"

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Try, "Each one of its sides was still in proportion." Think: "Each was." "Each side was still in proportion to the other sides." "Were" may sound better, but it is incorrect.

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I'm just tossing in another vote for "was"!

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