Forums

ForumsThe Tavern

"It" - English Pronouns and Grammar

Posted Feb 20, '13 at 8:13pm

Reton8

Reton8

2,524 posts

Moderator

"It is many things."

This is a tricky sentence. Very interesting!
Similar to what jeol said, and I also don't know if I am 100% correct on this. The sentence works or doesn't depending on whether or not things is a count noun or a not (noncount noun).

From this source: http://owl.english.purdue.edu

Countable and Uncountable Nouns
A count noun is one that can be expressed in plural form, usually with an "s." For example, "catâ€"cats," "seasonâ€"seasons," "studentâ€"students."

A noncount noun is one that usually cannot be expressed in a plural form. For example, "milk," "water," "air," "money," "food." Usually, you can't say, "He had many moneys."

Much/Many: Much modifies only uncountable nouns. Many modifies only countable nouns.

"We don't have much time to get this done."
"Many Americans travel to Europe."

The noun things appears to be a count noun in the sentence, "It is many things". Keep in mind, in English some nouns can fit both count and noncount categories:

From this source:http://leo.stcloudstate.edu

Exception: The rule needs to be slightly revised for a number of nouns. Certain nouns in English belong to both classes: they have both a noncount and a count meaning. Normally, the noncount meaning is abstract and general, and the count meaning is concrete and specific.

Example:
Count
The researcher had to overcome some specific problems to collect the data.    
Noncount
The researcher had no problem finding studies that supported his view.

I would say that things is a count noun in the sentence "It is many things." Notice how problems and Americans are considered count nouns in their respective examples above. Also, notice how all three of them end in an s and are plural (things, problems, Americans).

Looking at the example:
"Many Americans travel to Europe."
Many modifies the count noun Americans which is similar to the sentence we are given,
It is many things.
- Things is a count noun and is properly modified by the adjective/determiner (and quantifier) many.
- It is the subject and is many things is the predicate.
- It is a pronoun and refers to an antecedent that we do not know what it is because we do not have another sentence to give a context. We must assume that whatever it is referring to, is a singular entity as the word it in English is singular.

I would say the sentence is grammatically correct because is many things comments on the the subject in question but not directly. Had the sentence read, "It is things." This would more closely mirror the "It is ferrets." sentence and then would be incorrect. The sentence would have to read "It is a thing."

To further this, I'm going to say that (according to our sentence, "It is many things") we can consider it as a collective noun and you have It being a group of things. Which allows the It to agree with things and cause a correct sentence.

But, I'm not sure. Putting the determiner many before things changes the sentence and I have a strong feelings this is why the sentence is correct. I'm not sure of this at all though.

 

Posted Feb 20, '13 at 8:25pm

Reton8

Reton8

2,524 posts

Moderator

an I'm not sure if the sentence is correct or not. If it is correct it may be a poorly constructed sentence as well.

 

Posted Feb 20, '13 at 8:57pm

jeol

jeol

3,565 posts

But, I'm not sure. Putting the determiner many before things changes the sentence and I have a strong feelings this is why the sentence is correct. I'm not sure of this at all though.

Like has been mentioned in the past, the predicate is incorrect, thus the sentence is incorrect. '[It] is multiples' is not correct, even for a group. That is not to assume that something like 'he is lovable and good to talk to' is not a correct sentence, since the adjectives are all describing a singular object. However, with actual objects, they aren't particularly describing the group, but defining it. They are pretty much the same though, right? I would say that describing involves adjectives, while defining involves nouns. The question is how to get around the problem with the predicate.

As we have seen, we can describe an object or group using the simple verb 'is'. Defining is where we get problems. The solution is to 'prepositionize' (I love verbing words) the defining characters. You'll need a singular verb to go along with it, since the noun or pronoun is singular. I use 'consists' since the group would consist of these objects.

"It consists of Jack, Jerry, and Jim. It has three members."

'Has' would not work in the case of defining 'it' - it works in describing how many members are in the group, but in the case of defining it would practically be 'is in the possession of'. 'Has' describes, not defines - it would quite literally be describing what 'it' has. But what makes 'consists of' so special? It is mostly the sense that the words are defined - 'is made up of' would also work, since the core of what makes up 'it' is being defined. The verb is singular, but gathers all of the information following 'of' in a singular form. It's a little hard to explain beyond that, but basically, the verb depends on a word that brings everything together to be defined as a group. An engine is a group of parts. It is built from pistons and such and usually requires gasoline to run. The verb isn't exactly assuming everything to one thing, but defining what builds it into a single entity. Simply put, you wouldn't say, "It are an engine" because it is built up of multiple parts. You would say "It is an engine, and consists of multiple parts."

... That probably makes no sense, but that is how I see it built up logically.

 

Posted Feb 20, '13 at 11:42pm

Reton8

Reton8

2,524 posts

Moderator

"It is ferrets." and "It is many things." Are different sentences with different predicates. "It is many things." may actually have a proper predicate.

If I said, "Jimmy is a dance, actor, musician, race car draiver, and blacksmith. He is many things."

It is not correct to say "They are many things." because They is a pronoun that does not agree with the antecedent Jimmy. So, "It is many things. is not incorrect because it contains it is.

An engine is a group of parts.
Engines are a group of parts.

Notice how, although the engine and the engines are all considered groups of parts one noun receives a plural verb and the other receives a singular verb. This is because engine could be considered a collective noun.
From Wikipeida: Collective Nouns

In linguistics, a collective noun is the name of a number (or collection) of people or things taken together and spoken of as one whole. For example, in the phrase "a pride of lions", pride is a collective noun.

An engine may be thought of as a collection of parts yet it is spoken of as one whole. One could say "...a pride of lions." and also "...prides of lions." Notice how in "...a pride of lions." how pride need not be plural to match lions and is correct as stated.

It is many things. It could be considered a collective noun in this instance because of the word it and it's ambiguous nature (the word is a pronoun). Also, we know that it consists or many abstract ideas or many actual things.

 

Posted Feb 20, '13 at 11:44pm

Reton8

Reton8

2,524 posts

Moderator

Engines are  groups of parts. (This might be more correct)
But either way notice how parts remains plural in both sentences.

 

Posted Feb 21, '13 at 1:04am

jeol

jeol

3,565 posts

It is many things. It could be considered a collective noun in this instance because of the word it and it's ambiguous nature (the word is a pronoun). Also, we know that it consists or many abstract ideas or many actual things.

Yes, but is is a verb while of is a preposition. The fact that there can be multiple groups is a little irrelevant, I think. If there are multiple groups of the same people, you wouldn't say 'They are Jack, Jerry, and Jim.' You would say 'They consist of Jack, Jerry, and Jim.' I'm guessing you read my third paragraph? Notice the instances that I use 'describe' and 'define'. They're the two differentiating points in this argument.

It is not correct to say "They are many things." because They is a pronoun that does not agree with the antecedent Jimmy. So, "It is many things." is not incorrect because it contains it is.

Your conclusion only sees two possible arguments. Again, read the third paragraph.

 

Posted Feb 21, '13 at 3:26am

Reton8

Reton8

2,524 posts

Moderator

I suppose that you can say
"Jim does many things." and it would not be correct to say, "Jim do many things."
However, neither is "I does many things." it would be "I do many things." The subject must agree with the auxiliary verb do. The noun, things does not have any bearing on the verb do/does in this instance.

The object at hand is singular, It and what it is, is multiple things. It sounds wrong to me in my head and right. Let's say it is a Swiss Army Knife.
"The Swiss Army Knife is multiple things." I suppose it would be correct to change the sentence to "The Swiss Army Knife is multifaceted. or "The Swiss Army Knife has many parts."  "...is many things" sounds less correct (or wrong) compared to "...has many parts."  But remember "..is ferrets" does not work because ferrets is a noun that is plural. While is many links a singular verb with an adjective. (?)

I don't know at this point. I don't know all the different components of a sentence well enough and I have probably been over thinking this to the point were it's making it harder for me to see the answer.

I would like to ask a professor about this one or ask a linguist.

 

Posted Feb 21, '13 at 6:00am

NoNameC68

NoNameC68

5,069 posts

Knight

Ferrets like to live their lives irresponsibly. It's ferrets, after all.

Ferrets like to live their lives irresponsibly. That's ferrets, after all.

or

Ferrets like to live their lives irresponsibly. That's what defines ferrets, after all.

 
Reply to "It" - English Pronouns and Grammar

You must be logged in to post a reply!