Hello community,
I've got an intriguing question for native speakers. Some may consider it a matter of hair splitting, however, here is the sentence from a speech on glabalisation by Kofi Annan:
... It has resulted in endless enmity and conflict, leading men and women to commit the greatest of crimes in the name of a higher power.

is "the greatest of crimes" plural or singular.
(the German translation requires our decision, is it: "das groesste Verbrechen" or "die groessten Verbrechen")
kind regards and many thanks
Emil
Kofi Annan:
... It has resulted in endless enmity and conflict, leading ... greatest of crimes in the name of a higher power.

Emil Veit:
(I)s "the greatest of crimes" plural or singular(?)

Expressions like "the greatest" can be plural or singular, depending on the context. "The greatest teams in hockey in those days were the Maple Leafs, the Red Wings, and the Canadiens." "No, the greatest team was the Soviet national team."
Annan could have said "the greatest crimes" or "the greatest crime", which would enable us to tell singular from plural, but he didn't; the expression that suited his sense best was "the greatest of crimes", and that could, in isolation, be read either way.
This time, however, I think it's clearly plural. What Annan is talking about is the all-too-pervasive "notion that what is ours is necessarily in conflict with what is theirs". This is likely to lead to many crimes of many kinds, suggesting the plural interpretation.

Moreover, in a formal context like this, if a reference to "the greatest of crimes" was meant in the singular, the speaker would surely either explicitly state what specific crime they consider to be the greatest (for example, genocide), or would make sure that it was clear from context (for example, by talking about the Holocaust) otherwise people might miss the point. And Annan didn't do that. So, as I say, I think it's clearly meant as plural.

Mark Brader, Toronto > "(That) statement is so full of hubris (Email Removed) > you can hear the wax melting." Steve Summit

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I've got an intriguing question for native speakers. Some may consider it a matter of hair splitting, however, here is ... of crimes" plural or singular. (the German translation requires our decision, is it: "das groesste Verbrechen" or "die groessten Verbrechen")

Almost certainly plural. I think that the context would have to have already established which crime he specifically meant for me to take it as singular. So, if he was already talking specifically about, say, genocide, and this was clearly what he was referring to, it would be singular. Otherwise, it's an unspecified set of really bad crimes.

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Hello community, I've got an intriguing question for native speakers. Some may consider ita matter of hair splitting, however, here ... of crimes" plural or singular. (the German translation requires our decision, is it: "das groesste Verbrechen" or "die groessten Verbrechen")

Because English does not make adjectives decline,
"greatest" could be either singular or plural.
Since you know the source, you could ask him:
but if there is no reply you are free to use
groesste or groessten as you prefer.

Don Phillipson
Carlsbad Springs (Ottawa, Canada)
Hello community, I've got an intriguing question for native speakers. Some may consider it a matter of hair splitting, however, ... German translation requires our decision, is it: "das groesste Verbrechen" or "die groessten Verbrechen") kind regards and many thanks Emil

Can be either. 'Murder is the greatest of crimes'. 'Murder, rape and blasphemy are the greatest of crimes'.
But he probably means it as a plural

John Dean
Oxford
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