Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

Pain in the English offers proofreading services for short-form writing such as press releases, job applications, or marketing copy. 24 hour turnaround. Learn More

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?

  • January 25, 2004
  • Posted by jenga
  • Filed in Grammar
  • 23 comments

Submit Your Comment

Or

Comments

Sort by  OldestLatestRating

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

BradleyB February 11, 2004, 10:07am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

"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.

Adam Rice February 11, 2004, 11:43am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

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.

ladylucy December 16, 2004, 1:17pm

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

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.

WebTurtle February 28, 2004, 10:03am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

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.

speedwell2 March 1, 2004, 8:28am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

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.

Adam Rice March 2, 2004, 1:24pm

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

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.

speedwell2 March 3, 2004, 8:03am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

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

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

Pete October 31, 2005, 8:38am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

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

chat November 1, 2005, 6:56pm

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Thanks for all of the fish.

webmaster November 4, 2005, 12:56am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Thanks for all of the fish.

webmaster November 4, 2005, 2:22am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Thanks for all of the fish.

slots November 7, 2005, 12:11am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

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 :)

M Stevenson April 11, 2004, 2:06am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

ROFL Speedwell re the fate of your engineering document.

M Stevenson April 11, 2004, 2:08am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Thanks for all of the fish

webmaster November 9, 2005, 1:58am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Thanks for all of the fish.

webmaster November 10, 2005, 12:01am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Thanks for all of the fish.

webmaster November 10, 2005, 6:16am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Thanks for all of the fish

webmaster November 12, 2005, 6:45am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

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.

carriegood January 25, 2004, 6:43pm

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

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!

Jenga January 25, 2004, 8:14pm

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

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"

Aaron January 25, 2004, 10:19pm

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

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.

Anonymous January 28, 2004, 2:33pm

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

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

Sarah M. January 31, 2004, 4:01am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse