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"who was" or "who were"

need help with grammar please

     

The Cricketer

11:50 am on Jan 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Just putting some content on my website - Can someone advise me whether the "who was" part of the sentence should be "who was" or "who were"?

"It originated from a company called Widget Associates who was Joe Smith's main distributor within the USA."

Thanks

ap_Rhys

12:11 pm on Jan 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



I would say 'which was' (in UK English) because it refers back to 'company' not 'Widget Associates.

The Cricketer

12:32 pm on Jan 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



sounds good ap_Rhys thanks.

I found this a minute ago.

In modern speech, which refers only to things. Who (or its forms whom and whose) refers only to people.

Maybe a reason.

ap_Rhys

12:54 pm on Jan 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



I suspect that the use of 'which' is in serious decline. Microsoft Word's grammar-checking facility often flags up the word as an error - even when it is correct in normal, accepted use of British English - preferring 'that' instead.

I assume this is an American convention.

Dammit we invented the language!

Marcia

1:12 pm on Jan 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member marcia is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



>>Dammit we invented the language!

Ah yes, but have you blokes kept up with the language as it's developed and matured since way back then in its infantile stages of development! ;)

"Who was" refers to the singular and "who were" refers to plural. You'd say the man was playing golf and you'd also say the men were playing golf.

Those would be right, but it's different where a company is concerned and could depend on which side of the pond you're writing for. For example, on the UK site they say "Google are" referring to the company as though it were plural, and on the US side we say "Google is" singular, which is the way it sounds right to me.

Would you say "Google was started by a couple of kids at Stanford," or "Google were started by a couple of kids at Stanford?" Or "Google was giving out pens" or "Google were giving out pens."

One sounds right in the first example from both ends, but the other sounds right in the second from a UK point of view, which could be because one is a passive verb form and the other is an active verb form. In the first, something happened to "them" but in the second, "they" did something - yet the plural and singular aspect looks different from our perspective on this side.

Right? ;)

[edited by: Marcia at 1:23 pm (utc) on Jan. 19, 2004]

ap_Rhys

1:22 pm on Jan 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Ah yes, but have you blokes kept up with the language as it's developed and matured since way back then in its infantile stages of development!

In some respects British English is more 'modern' than American English. American English uses a number of 18th century conventions (including spelling variants) that have changed since on this side of the pond. Often those changes were made under the influence of 19th century Latinist grammarians and French spelling influences which have made the language much clumsier (IMHO).

Would you say "Google was started by a couple of kids at Stanford," or "Google were started by a couple of kids at Stanford?" Or "Google was giving out pens" or "Google were giving out pens."

One sounds right in the first example but the other sounds right in the second, which could be because one is a passive verb form and the other is active. In the first, something happened to "them" but in the second, "they" did something.

My choices would be exactly the same as yours.

Marcia

1:33 pm on Jan 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member marcia is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Actually Rhys, the way it's generally used referring to a company is right both ways depending on the locale, in terms of common usage. Same thing with spelling conventions or terminology being different; conventional usage prevails.

stroller=pushchair
shopping trolley=shopping cart
lift=elevator
car hire=car rental
pram=baby carriage
soda (New York)=pop (West Coast)=phosphates(MidWest)="tonic" in New Hampshire

They're all right, and we'd have to adjust if we needed to write specifically for one locale or the other that we weren't accustomed to. That's why it's generally recommended that native language speakers are best for translations.

Going back to the original post, I'd also say "which was Joe's first distributor..." referring to the singular with the company as an "it" not a person. Had been two companies I'd probably say "Company_A and Company_B, who were Joe's first distributors." It isn't consistent, but it seems to sound right that way.

lorax

9:26 pm on Jan 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lorax is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



"Joe Smith's main distributor in the USA - Widget Associates - first created IT."

mylungsarempty

2:16 am on Jan 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Yeah, while rewording the syntax entirely is a good approach, if you still want to go with your original sentence, it's "which".

no question.

seriously. no question.

The Cricketer

10:10 am on Jan 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



In the example by lorax, I have not seen anything which suggests that using hyphens in this situation would be correct. Isn't it better to use commas:

"...in the USA, Widget Associates, first..."?

ap_Rhys

11:17 am on Jan 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



It was first created by Widget Associates, Joe Smith's main distributor in the USA.

lorax

3:14 pm on Jan 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lorax is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



>> I have not seen anything which suggests that using hyphens

Consider them dashes not hyphens. Dashes are often used to indicate an abrupt change in the sentence. I'm going by The Elements of Grammar by Margaret Shertzer.

jimbeetle

3:49 pm on Jan 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jimbeetle is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



I would rewrite it one of two ways:

It originated from a company called Widget Associates that was Joe Smith's main distributor in the USA.

The sentence defines the relationship between the company and Joe Smith and needs that to be correct.

Or, depending on how formal or informal you want to be, use a comma to elide over the phrase:

It originated from a company called Widget Associates, Joe Smith's main distributor in the USA.

To gray things up a bit more in both cases I replaced within with in. Why? Somebody else is going to have to tell me why it might or might not be more correct, but I think it is.

choster

4:46 pm on Jan 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



The plural makes sense if there really are associates, as in a partnership. "Widget Associates, comprised of Johnson, Gonzales, and the Wong brothers, were the main promotors of Joe Smith's widgets in the USA." It's somewhat ambiguous here, so either form could be grammatically correct, but it's best to use a style guide for consistency across articles.

In other cases, changing from singular to plural or vice versa completely changes the resulting sense:

The Demotarian field is much larger than it was in 1996 or 2000. (8 candidates running, instead of just 3)
The Demotarian field are much larger than they were in 1996 or 2000. (more prominent. or maybe just fatter)

The Republigreen field are appealing to very different segments of the party's core constituencies. (i.e. Jones for red widget owners, Singh for blue, Rasmussen for yellow)
The Republigreen field is appealing to very different segments of the party's core constituencies. (i.e. silver and orange widget owners, who'd never be seen in public together, rate Jones, Singh, and Rasmussen alike over 80%)

ememi

7:31 pm on Jan 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



I think ap_Rhys hit on the best answer here:
It was first created by Widget Associates, Joe Smith's main distributor in the USA.

Fairla

9:22 pm on Jan 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



I've learned that sometimes it helps to follow a style guide. Doesn't really matter which one, but I was required to use the Associated Press Stylebook (which is available at Amazon, not expensive) when working as an editor for a corporate website, and I've used it ever since for my own site. It's very handy, not only for explaining grammatical rules but helping you decide what to do when it's more a matter of style than grammar.
 

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