Originally posted by ale1552
Very interesting, and it applies to any number. Three and three are six. Three plus three is six.
According to Bill Bryson's "Troublesome Words", 'plus' is a preposition, not a conjunction, and therefore does not influence the number of the verb. So Two plus two is four
. The version of this statement with 'and' in it is different because the conjunction creates two things, two and
two, so the verb must take the plural form: Two and two are four
or Two and two equal four
William Safire, in his book "The Right Word in the Right Place at the Right Time" (a compilation of nuggets from his "On Language" newspaper column in the NY Times), wrote the following: "Should you say 'Two plus is four' or 'Two plus two are four'? I'm a preppy, and say is
In a letter to Safire, one of his readers said: "As a person who has been a teacher of mathematics for a long time it is clear that 'Two plus two is four' is shorter for 'The sum of two plus two is four'.
Another correspondent wrote: "Two plus two equal four. So there."
Now, of course, this "plus v and" thing is not exactly a crucial issue. Knickers ought not to be allowed to become twisted in the face of this grammatical point. Nevertheless, I feel there is a bigger, more significant question lying behind disputes such as this.
I personally believe that splitting infinitives ("...to boldly
go where no one has gone before..." ) is perfectly good and acceptable English, and legitimized by the daily usage of millions upon millions of native English speakers. We are told, however, by those in some quarters, that it is 'sub-standard' English, because splitting an infinitive is wrong to do
. This 'rule' was apparently plucked out of the air by a Reverend Something-Or-Other in the 18thC who argued that seeing as it was impossible to split an infinitive in Latin, the infinitive should not be split in English. By the same reckoning, he insisted, we cannot - yea! Must not! - finish a sentence with a preposition ("...which part of town do you live in?" ) because it isn't possible to do so in Latin.
Latin? Uh? I reject all this. In fact I deliberately flout the rule, despite constant snooty corrections from self-professed traditionalists like my brother law. But what authority can my brother in law cite? The French Language is technically 'governed' by its Academie
, although - in reality - it may, in practical terms, be a place of twisted knickers and fingers in dams.
How dare my brother in law correct me! I am an educated native speaker like him and I am fully in control of the way I express myself in my mother tongue. On what authority can he scold me for splitting infinitives and ending my sentences with prepositions? Is he really entitled to cite the Reverend Something-Or-Other from the 18thC who wrote (indeed, pontificated) about grammar as a hobby? If it's "commonly accepted usage" that my brother in law thinks bolsters his case, then he loses. Surely?
Perhaps my brother in law, like the arch-snooty William Safire, is a "preppy", whatever that
means. But does my sister's pedantic husband really derive any authority from this preppiness?
If the English language is not governed and there is no central authority, then what exactly is the difference between right and wrong? And on whose say so?