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March 17, 2003
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Whoops, forgot. Jun-Dai Bates-Kobash asked what you do when one element is plural and the other is not: "Two small apples or one large apple can be used, though neither is/are ideal"
The answer is that "neither [one]" still takes a singular verb.
I have to respectfully disagree with a couple of you. As used in the sample sentence, "neither" unquestionably takes the singular. Think of it as being short for "neither one". "Neither one is ideal" is the only correct form.
Believe it or not, this is actually a rule, and therefore to be cherished for its rarity.
A live chicken is a single indivisible unit. Once it's killed and cooked, it becomes some quantity of fried chicken, which is divisible -- and hard to keep track of, if you have light-fingered hungry people around. HonBancho's right; nobody wants to have to keep count. Fried chicken is just fried chicken.
I'm not hearing any common use of terms signifying which century we're in, because it's usually so obvious from context that there's no need to specify which century you mean.
I'm hearing this decade called the Oughts, just like the first decade of the last century. Specific years are pronounced "oh three" or "ought three". If we continue to use the same forms as last century, which seems likely, the next decade will be the Teens.
"Taking sides" is the common phrase, I suspect because that way you don't have to count up sides, or determine anyone's specific position. You can simply observe that they've gotten to the point of taking sides.
It's "is" because it's a general statement about a continuous ongoing state of affairs: "My teacher explained why the sky is blue."
The reporter was correct. It's colloquial New York usage.
This isn't a 100% reliable rule, but in general, regional designations are "on" -- the Upper West Side, the Lower East Side, etc. -- but you're "in" specific neighborhoods: Midtown, Chelsea, Harlem, Soho, Tribeca, Gramercy Park, etc.
It gets interesting. There's a large swath of Brooklyn that's "on the Slope"; that is, on the long westward downslope from Prospect Park to the waterfront. Only part of that area can be described as being "in Park Slope", a specific neighborhood south of Fort Green and east of Carroll Gardens.
Even better, there's a Lower East Side neighborhood called Loisaida, which is just "Lower East Side" as pronounced by its Hispanic inhabitants. If you're in that neighborhood, you're in Loisaida, but you're on the Lower East Side.
The boroughs are all "in" -- in Brooklyn, in the Bronx, in Queens -- except for Staten Island, which can be "in" or "on" as the speaker prefers.
Purple Dragon's right. Anything can have value, or have some value; but when it has a value, it's a quantitative measure, and math probably comes into it.
English has a bunch of irregular nouns left over from its amalgamation and transformation of several languages into Middle and then Modern English. It's been losing them gradually.
There are no simple rules for which nouns have irregular plurals. Your best bet is to own a copy of the Oxford English Diction and look them up on a case-by-case basis. Nouns can have quite surprising personal histories.
Regarding "cattle": I've known cattlemen out west. They wouldn't say "two heads of cattle." The word is "head": "Company's coming. Take a couple head of cattle up the wash so Cook can get started on 'em."
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