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Hello,

According to the Longman dictionary, "total" is singular.

However, in your case it doesn't matter because you used "total" as an adjective, and obviously adjectives can be neither singular nor plural.

So it's the noun after "total" that determines the use of plural/singular because it is the head of the whole noun phrase in your examples.

Hence, in the sentence with socks, the verb takes the plural form, and in the other sentence, the correct form is singular.

@Tony C posted:


The total socks that I wear were 10 pairs during the year.

Hello, Tony—While I agree with what Lucas has told you about the word "total," it is important for you to know that this sentence you have produced does not work at all.

For one thing, "total socks" is very awkward. You can say "total number of stocks," though I recommend a different formulation. Another problem is that "wear" (present tense) conflicts with "were" (past tense). Try this instead:

  • I wore a total of ten pairs of socks during the year.

Well, the two cases are different.

@Former Member posted:

1. Mary said she liked me.

2. Mary said she likes me.

Sentence (2) above will only work if, as you said, Mary still likes the speaker, and if she said it recently.

Instead, Tony's sentence is faulty because both the relative clause and main clause seem to refer to the socks worn by the speaker during the year.

@Tony C posted:

The total socks that I wear were 10 pairs during the year.

For a similar sentence to work, the relative clause needs to refer to the present, for example:

- The socks I'm wearing now belonged to my grandfather.

or

- The socks I usually wear were in fashion in the 1950s.

Last edited by Gustavo, Co-Moderator

Sentence (2) above will only work if, as you said, Mary still likes the speaker, and if she said it recently.



Yeah, thats why the speaker uses the present tense, i.e. to make their interlocutor think the information is still relevant, I believe.



Instead, Tony's sentence is faulty because both the relative clause and main clause seem to refer to the socks worn by the speaker during the year.



Yeah, I understand what you mean.

However, I think the sentence with the present tense can also work. In this case, the relative clause's job would be to indicate a specific purpose of socks.

Lets imagine that the speaker has various socks for various purposes: for example, socks that he wears, socks that he hangs on the chimney, socks that he sells, etc.

Thus, during the year, the total socks that he wears were 10 pairs, but the total socks that he hangs on the chimney were 4 pairs. (Even though he might never have worn them, nor might he ever have hanged them on the chimney.)



I think if we moved the adverbial phrase to the relative clause, then the past tense would be a must. (Provided the adverbial refers to a specific year in the past)

The total socks that I WORE during the year were 10 pairs.



What do you think?

@Former Member posted:


However, I think the sentence with the present tense can also work. In this case, the relative clause's job would be to indicate a specific purpose of socks.

Lets imagine that the speaker has various socks for various purposes: for example, socks that he wears, socks that he hangs on the chimney, socks that he sells, etc.

Thus, during the year, the total socks that he wears were 10 pairs, but the total socks that he hangs on the chimney were 4 pairs. (Even though he might never have worn them, nor might he ever have hanged them on the chimney.)



I think if we moved the adverbial phrase to the relative clause, then the past tense would be a must. (Provided the adverbial refers to a specific year in the past)

The total socks that I WORE during the year were 10 pairs.



What do you think?

I think it would be extremely unlikely and grammatically dubious, but if you want to classify socks according to their different uses or purposes it'd be better to say socks for wearing, socks for hanging on the chimney, socks for selling/sale.

The present tense creates a conflict mainly because were identifies those socks.

The sentence:

- The total socks that I WORE during the year were 10 pairs.

is fine but David's is much more natural.

@Former Member posted:


However, I think the sentence with the present tense can also work.

No, it really doesn't.

@Former Member posted:

In this case, the relative clause's job would be to indicate a specific purpose of socks.

Lets imagine that the speaker has various socks for various purposes: for example, socks that he wears, socks that he hangs on the chimney, socks that he sells, etc.

Thus, during the year, the total socks that he wears were 10 pairs, but the total socks that he hangs on the chimney were 4 pairs. (Even though he might never have worn them, nor might he ever have hanged them on the chimney.)

You appear not to have taken my message that "the total socks" is extremely awkward. "The total socks" can be suitably replaced by "the total number of socks." Your sentence beginning with "Thus" is not one that any native speaker  of English would ever utter or write.

To express the idea you have in mind, according to which the socks were dedicated to various purposes, whether or not they were actually used at all, for their respective designated purposes or for any other purpose, it would be natural to use a construction with "for -ing":

  • Thus, during the year, his total number of socks for wearing were 10 pairs, but his total number of socks for hanging on the chimney were 4 pairs.

P.S. I was composing my post when Gustavo made the above post. As you can see, we have both revised your sentence so that it uses "for -ing."

Last edited by David, Moderator

The sentence:

- The total socks that I WORE during the year were 10 pairs.

is fine but David's is much more natural.

I'm sure David's sentence is more natural - I just do what grammar rules let me do.



No, it really doesn't.

You appear not to have taken my message that "the total socks" is extremely awkward. "The total socks" can be suitably replaced by "the total number of socks." Your sentence beginning with "Thus" is not one that any native speaker  of English would ever utter or write.

I don't deny that "the total socks" is awkward. My concern was that it's grammatically possible to treat the relative clause "that I wear" as an indicator of a purpose, even though it may not sound natural.



Your sentence beginning with "Thus" is not one that any native speaker  of English would ever utter or write.

Does it have to mean it's not good? Sometimes non-native speakers may come up with something interesting.

I think if a sentence is grammatically correct and semantically right, then it ought to be worth uttering or writing.

Last edited by Former Member
@Former Member posted:

I'm sure David's sentence is more natural - I just do what grammar rules let me do.



Unfortunately, Lucas, your sentence "Thus, during the year, the total socks that he wears were 10 pairs, but the total socks that he hangs on the chimney were 4 pairs" would only work in a type of context that is so silly that it is not even worth mentioning.

The context is one of science fiction. Do we really need to go there? When one has to resort to science fiction in order to give a sentence meaning, it is a clear sign that a sentence is being used with anomalous meaning and grammar. English language teachers are concerned with teaching usable English.

@Former Member posted:

My concern was that it's grammatically possible to treat the relative clause "that I wear" as an indicator of a purpose, even though it may not sound natural.



No, it is not grammatically possible to interpret "that I wear" as an indicator of purpose in Tony's sentence—again, assuming we are not resorting to science fiction. While the PRESENT purpose of an item can be indicated through usage of the simple present, the PAST purpose of an item cannot.

@Former Member posted:

Sometimes non-native speakers may come up with something interesting.

Yes, that is true. But overzealous learners sometimes grow overconfident in their own abilities in English and propose sentences that are rather outlandish.

@Former Member posted:

I think if a sentence is grammatically correct and semantically right, then it ought to be worth uttering or writing.

Your semantic requirement needs to be restricted to the actual world. You can use sentences appropriate to science fiction contexts in science fiction contexts. Tony C is not interested in writing science fiction. Look at a sample of his posts.

Last edited by David, Moderator

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