grammar question


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  1. #1

    Question grammar question

    Hi! I am working on a new novel (fantasy) and I came across a sentence that illustrates a question I've had for a while. The sentence is:

    The only thing that hadn’t been affected [was/were] the universities.

    "The only thing" is singular, but "the universities" is plural.
    Should I use "was" or "were" here?

    Thanks in advance.


  2. #2
    "Thing" is singular, therefore "was" is what you need. The fact that "universities" is plural is immaterial. The subject of the sentence is the word "thing".
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    "One morning I shot an elephant in my pyjamas. How he got into my pyjamas I'll never know." ~ Groucho Marx.

    "It is better to be feared than loved, if one cannot be both". ~ Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince.

    "A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer". ~ Bruce Lee.

    "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few". ~ Shunryu Suzuki.

    "Give a man a mask and he will show you his true face". ~ Oscar Wilde.

    "He who learns but does not think is lost; he who thinks but does not learn is in great danger". ~ Confucius.

  3. #3
    Either put an 's' on the end of thing, and have 'universities. Or, lose the 'ies' and have 'university'.

  4. #4
    I don't think universities, singular or plural, can be affected. I think they'd have to be effected.
    A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking. Steven Wright

  5. #5
    Well, actually I think it's the other way around. I've been running into comments on effect/affect like this a lot online lately, going contrary to my impression. So I looked it up.


    —Usage note
    Affect 1 and effect, each both noun and verb, share the sense of “influence,” and because of their similarity in pronunciation are sometimes confused in writing. As a verb affect 1 means “to act on” or “to move” ( His words affected the crowd so deeply that many wept ); affect 2 means “to pretend” or “to assume” ( new students affecting a nonchalance they didn't feel ). The verb effect means “to bring about, accomplish”: Her administration effected radical changes. The noun effect means “result, consequence”: the serious effects of the oil spill. The noun affect 1 pronounced with the stress on the first syllable, is a technical term in psychology and psychiatry. Affect 2 is not used as a noun.
    See my books Hidden Content (and in heaven).

  6. #6
    Well I'm pretty clear on the affect/effect thing, but I wasn't sure about was/were. I'll stick with "was". Thanks for the replies.

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