INFORMATION is like LAUNDRY, MONEY, or SAND!

Cal Thomas head shot Even experienced writers like long-time columnist Cal Thomas mess up subject/verb agreement sometimes. Here is a sentence from his excellent Christmas column, "What if the greatest story ever told is true?" A quick proofread by him or his editor would probably have caught this.

"The information provided by witnesses to these events are either true, or not."

Whoops! INFORMATION is a collective noun like LAUNDRY, MONEY, SALT, or SAND. These things are lump sums. We don't count them individually when we write or speak about them. In other words, people do not say that they have several LAUNDRIES to do today or that they have only one MONEY in the bank. They don't try to describe how many SALTS are in the shaker or how many SANDS are on the beach.

Therefore, these nouns are treated as singular and take a singular verb. Cal Thomas's sentence should read this way: 

The information provided by witnesses to these events is either true, or not.

On the other hand, nouns that are not collective refer to things that can be counted, and people do say that they have several SHIRTS to wash or several DOLLAR BILLS on the table. They do describe the number of BEACHES in a state or the number of SALT SHAKERS in the cupboard.

The way to avoid this Glitch is to consider whether or not the noun you want to use refers to something that can be counted or not. Here are some sentences that illustrate this point:

1. The LAUNDRY is piling up this week.  

            The TOWELS are ready to be washed.

2. My MONEY is tied up in real estate.  

           There are three dollar BILLS on the counter.

3. The SAND on Gulf Coast beaches is bright white.  

          GRAINS of sand are in my shoes.

4. Is there enough SALT in the soup?

         Three different KINDS of salt are on the shelf.


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