Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

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Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

24-Hour Proofreading Service—We proofread your Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. We hate grammatical errors with a passion. Learn More

46 year old heated Caribbean debate

Good Day All,

I live in Trinidad and Tobago and for the last 46 years there’s been an argument about a point of grammar in our National Anthem. The last line is (what we learn in kindergarden):

“Here every creed and race FIND an equal place”

Some say this is grammatically correct. Others argue that it should be, “Here every creed and race FINDS an equal place”. Thousands of Letters to the Editor have been written arguing about this issue. Anyone care to help us solve this dilemma?

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I would vote for "finds". When I searched the Web for "every boy and girl is", I found a quote from Hillary Clinton.

every boy and girl is loved and cared for equally, and every family has the hope of a strong and stable future.

But in Merriam-Webster's dictionary of English usage, I found the following:

It is an arguable point whether a phrase like "every boy and girl" is singular or plural.

But this is in a context of trying to avoid sexism.

My argument for using singular is that, if you want to use plural, you should use "all", not "every". Compare the following:

Every boy and girl is wearing a T-shirt.

All boys and girls are wearing T-shirts.

Both say the same thing but place slightly different emphases on how you look at the same fact. The word "every" emphasizes the individuality, and the fact that there are no exceptions. If I just want to communicate the fact that all the kids I saw were wearing T-shirts, I would use "all". (i.e. I may be missing a few who aren't wearing them, but as far as I can see they all seem to be wearing T-shirts.) But, if, for some reason, I'm really impressed by the fact that I couldn't find anyone not wearing a T-shirt, I would use "every".

At this school, every boy and girl is committed to helping the environment.

In this type of statement, you would want to emphasize the individuality. Not only that there are no exceptions, but also that everyone is motivated and committed individually (i.e. Everyone happens to have the same ideal, as opposed to the school having this ideal.). So, it's a matter of style.

This is why I would vote for "finds" in the original example. “Here every creed and race finds an equal place” is making an ideological point. It should emphasize the individuality of "every creed and race". The use of "find" would diminish the point of using "every".

Since "an equal place" is singular also, you might as well make them all agree.

While it may not be grammatically incorrect, I would say "find" is a poor choice stylistically.

Dyske Aug-01-2009

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If thousands of letters have been written about this, then my take has probably been stated before. Here goes: I'm betting that Trinidad and Tobago, being populated by humans, are not 100% free of religious and racial inequality. I'm also suggesting that the populace and the leaders there have always known this. It would be Naive, at best, to claim in one's national anthem that his or her country is without prejudice. I would suggest, instead, that the anthem is proposing that a land without prejudice is a nationally accepted goal, not a reality. In this case, "find" would be correct as the subjunctive.

porsche Aug-01-2009

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This is called poetic license; it's a song lyric. I think it sounds great the way it is.

lkojio Aug-01-2009

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It is interesting that just by adding or eliminating a single letter, you can imply such a different philosophical meaning.

Check out

Some people have used the argument that as the anthem is a poem, the author was possibly using poetic licence. When Patrick Castagne was asked personally if this were so, he was adamant that he did not invoke poetic licence. He said he in fact wrote the “correct” word, finds, but changed it when he was overruled by an education official who was his superior.

Unfortunately, the source URL is not working, so I'm not sure how true/factual this is, but if true, the matter is settled. But then, I suppose we could argue that his "superior" meant the statement to be subjunctive. But then, we could argue that as long as Castagne is credited as the author, we should honor his original intention (unless we also credit his superior as a co-writer.).

Either way, I think we can agree that it's not grammatically incorrect because it's a matter of how we interpret it.

Dyske Aug-02-2009

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Could be a slightly different dialect of English. I don't know enough about Trinidad's English! If it seems odd to you, though, since you've lived there long enough, perhaps you're right, and that it should be "finds".

Coming from my background, I consider the phrase "every creed and race" to be a title of a class or group, and should be treated like a singular noun. If I had free reign to rewrite it, I'd go with, "all creeds and races find," however.

Steven5 Aug-05-2009

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Life must be pretty good in Trinidad and Tobago if this is all you have to argue about down there!

How soon can I move to Palo Seco?

JJMBallantyne Sep-22-2009

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I think your National Anthem is completely correct, because of the 'and'.

You could have "every creed FINDS an equal place" or 'every race FINDS an equal place", but add in the 'and' and you have
"every creed and race FIND an equal place".

And what lovely lyrics, anyway!


Anna_ Oct-01-2009

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"Every" connotes a singular, as per Merriam-Webster's 11th: 1a. being each individual or part of a group without exception. "Finds" is unequivocally correct.

Sociopolitical interpretations as expressed in threads above have no bearing on proper English. Read more classics and learn the nuances of our language, please.

James4 Dec-31-2009

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