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a couple

I can’t figure out which of the following is correct. It makes sense that “couple” would be singular, but it looks wrong in this sentence. What would you do?

There is a couple who (is/are) leaning on the wall of a building.

  • December 29, 2005
  • Posted by jon
  • Filed in Grammar
  • 7 comments

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Makes sense, Tim.

And I would if I could, peon, but it was written by a Korean student and they won't take "rewrite" as an answer.

jon December 30, 2005 @ 2:59AM

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The decision has already been decided in the first two words "There is". It would be improper to switch from the singular 'is' to the plural 'are' mid-sentence. That said, the resulting sentence is incredibly clumsy and will still sound "wrong" to most native speakers I believe.

sethx9 December 30, 2005 @ 8:04AM

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There is a couple who are leaning against the wall.
or
There is a couple that is leaning against the wall.

I think that by using the word "who" you are choosing to refer to the two seperate people in the previously mentioned couple.

theluckiestbastard December 31, 2005 @ 4:53AM

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There are many similar (collective) nouns, e.g. police, audience, congregation.
If you're thinking of the couple as a UNIT, then IS. If you're thinking of them as two INDIVIDUALS, then ARE (native speakers are very confused about this anyway!! Just to throw some sand into people's eyes, what about "Everybody's here, AREN'T THEY?" - and somebody, nobody, anybody... plus the trouble we have with "somebody's left THEIR / HIS / HER books behind...)
Happy New Year!

bradstow2 December 31, 2005 @ 5:12AM

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Well that's what's so irritating about this.

The sentence has two parts:

1) There is a couple (collective identity)
2) The couple are leaning on the wall (two individuals)

I seriously don't think that "The couple is leaning on the wall" can ever be appropriate.

jon January 2, 2006 @ 2:43AM

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A couple of people are...
the couple is...

http://www.flocabulary.com

angie_livingstone January 11, 2006 @ 2:35PM

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One big problem with "There is a couple, while they lean against the wall, gaze longingly into each other's eyes." is that "couple" is not the subject of the sentence. It's even debateable whether there is one. In order to be correct, this sentence would have to be:

The couple, while they lean against the wall, gaze longingly into each other's eyes.

or

There is a couple, leaning against the wall, gazing longingly into each other's eyes.

I also agree that a collective acts as a singular when it refers to one unit:

The couple is sitting in the park talking.

and that it is plural when they are individual:

There are a couple of people in the park.

ajmcpher April 1, 2006 @ 4:03PM

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