Community Web Version Now Available
Alan
"Ten days HAVE passed", but "Ten days IS a long time". Why? A question for fellow English native-speakers... "Ten days HAVE passed" (plural) "The ten days WERE fun" (plural) "Ten days IS a long time to wait" (singular) "Ten days IS the limit" (singular) A non-native speaker asked me why verb's singular in the second two, given the subject is plural. I was stumped, and had to say "because the object feels singular". Not a very useful explanation! However *"the ten days WAS fun" or *"Ten days ARE a long time" definitely sound wrong to my ears. How would you explain this? Is it related to the the transitivity of "be"?
Jan 6, 2016 6:16 AM
8
0
Answers · 8
I'm obviously not a non-native speaker. But I'm an amateur linguist, and you know how Chinese in big cities are taught English grammar in primary and secondary school. Ten days can mean literally ten days. That is 9+1 days. In this case, it's countable. It can also mean a period consisting of ten days. In such case, it's time that you're talking about. So it's uncountable. You can check if this makes sense with your own examples.
January 6, 2016
THE ten days WERE fun" (plural) >10 separated days > plural Ten days IS a long time to wait > is taken as singular because it is seen as a period of 10 days . From the net : We think of a sum of money, a period of time, a distance etc. as one thing. So we use a singular verb: • Twenty thousand pounds (= it) was stolen in the robbery, (not 'were stolen') • Three years (=it) is a long time to be without a job. (not 'Three years are...) • Six miles is a long way to walk every day
January 6, 2016
Maybe the sentence "Ten days IS a long time to wait" wants to emphasize the phrase "a long time" instead of "ten days" ,therefore "a long time " becomes the subject
January 6, 2016
Alan
Language Skills
Chinese (Mandarin), English, French, Persian (Farsi)
Learning Language
Chinese (Mandarin), Persian (Farsi)