A Verb Question

A few days ago, my friend Jane Brumbaugh sent me a problematic sentence from the newspaper: “He’s one of the trustees whose been instrumental.” The obvious problem is that whose doesn’t work. The correct word is who’s (a contraction of who has).

But there’s another problem too. Or maybe not! This sentence contains a controversial grammatical structure that even expert grammarians argue about. I think the sentence should read like this: “He’s one of the trustees who have been instrumental.”

But many people think this is correct: “He’s one of the trustees who has been instrumental.”

I’m going to argue my case, and then you can decide which version you think is better. To begin, compare these sentence pairs:

He’s a trustee. He has been instrumental.

He’s one of the trustees. They have been instrumental.

I think these sentence pairs have different meanings. When you combine them with who, you need different verbs.

He’s a trustee who has been instrumental.

He’s one of the trustees who have been instrumental.

You can’t say “He’s one of the trustees who has been instrumental.”

I rest my case!

Judge announcing a sentence

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2 thoughts on “A Verb Question

  1. Elizabeth fike

    Thanks for your posts. I didn’t do much writing for many years, so I’ve forgotten many the “writing rules”. Since joining an online gardening forum, I’ve been writing daily. I often have trouble deciding when to use a comma. I had forgotten about FANBOYS, etc. I don’t comment here often, but I always learn something or refresh my memory, by reading your posts. I STILL often feel like I’m using too many commas. If you see any of that in this comment, please feel free to point it out. Thanks again, Lisa

  2. jdancer

    Hi, Lisa – you made my day! (I did not find a single unnecessary comma.) I’m so glad you’re enjoying my posts. And it’s marvelous that you’re a gardener. Thanks so much for the feedback!

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