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"Most native speakers of English" understand what is meant by ... none", but that does not rescue either sentence from error.

But most native speakers of English, including the native ones, do not consider the original sentence ("A total of six candidates are standing ...") to be in error.

Your convincing evidence being . . . ?
Most, given a choice of verb following the subject in the quotation, would choose the plural.

Your convincing evidence being . . . ?
There is even a rule of grammar to account for this usage just not a rule that Eric Walker approves of.

Whose grammar? You speak of "a rule that Eric Walker approves of" as if I just sit here all day and make stuff up out of my head, and moreover as if that (nonexistent) stuff were the fount of all prescriptive grammar. There is a rule of grammar that labels the form at issue wrong, it's just not a rule that Bob Lieblich approves of. OK, I'll bet my guy can lick your guy.
When you're talking Standard English, you have to decide what standard you will apply. If you don't apply the standard of "acceptable to the great majority of educated speakers of Standard English, you are going to find yourself in error.

I repeat: your assertion that the form is "acceptable to the great majority of educated speakers of Standard English" is unsubstantiated, and I much doubt it (it strikes me as on a par with Merriam's assertion that many educated users deploy "ain't", which assertion later research showed to be not only pernicious but factually wrong). It may or may not be acceptable to the great majority of uneducated speakers of non-Standard English I couldn't say, and neither can anyone else (the real test being what they would want to say or write after the matter had been put them as this is what some say and why, and this is what others say and why) but that is scarcely relevant.
Let's leave it this way: you say and write what you please, and I'll say and write what I please. Then everybody's happy, yes?

Cordially,
Eric Walker
My opinions on English are available at
http://owlcroft.com/english /
Again: the grammatical subject does not have to equal "what ... and their regard does not alter the requirements of grammar.

Neither does yours.

Very true. But I am not the author of a grammar manual (yet), I just go by what the respected ones say. Have you a grammar manual to hand that sets forth "A total . . . are" as a grammatically sound construction? Tell us which and where.
In this case, grammar requires "are", not "is". "A total of six candidates is standing" (with the intended meaning) sounds ... and I would be very surprised to find any editor of an English-language publication allowing such a construction to stand.

One: it does not sound "ungrammatical", it sounds peculiar, which it indeed is. Two: speaking as a former editor, I agree that I would not let the construction stand, and I never said or implied that I would, and in fact vigorously said the opposite, which I repeat now: I would recast it so that there is no clash either way, perhaps to "Six candidates are standing for &c.", something I would likely do anyway, even absent any clash, as "a total of" is sheer frippery or worse.
Try parsing. In the form "X are Ying", clearly X ... an appositive compound adjective to modify "total", the governing noun.

It's equally possible to make the reverse argument. Consider the sentence "A total of six candidates are standing." The fact that the verb must be plural . . . .

Look up "begging the question".

Cordially,
Eric Walker
My opinions on English are available at
http://owlcroft.com/english /
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On 11/23/03 8:08 PM, in article
It is an "error" to say "I don't got none" ... the ninth with two outs and no runners on base.

I see no need for any hebephrenic plonk, but I think that it's about here that I stop reading your posts (just so you know).

Did that cause offense? I don't see how, I was searching for a metaphor you might readily understand. Did I get the baseball strategy wrong?

I'm really rather mystified as to why this particular line should cause Mr. Walker to killfile me.
"Most native speakers of English" understand what is meant by ... none", but that does not rescue either sentence from error.

"I don't got none" is grammatical, although it is hardly appropriate for anything but the most informal of situations. In ... it is an "error" to bunt in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and no runners on base.

I don't think this is a proper analogy. It's not the case that "I don't got none" is grammatical in the standard dialect, but only acceptable in formal situations (which seems to me to be what your analogy suggests); rather it's the case that "I don't got none" is ungrammatical in the standard dialect but grammatical in other dialects. The proper baseball analogy here seems would be that to say "I don't got none" is an error in the same sense that it is an error to send in a designated hitter to bat for a National League team.
-Aaron J. Dinkin
Dr. Whom
I see no need for any hebephrenic plonk, but I think that it's about here that I stop reading your posts (just so you know).

Did that cause offense? I don't see how, I was searching for a metaphor you might readily understand. Did I get the baseball strategy wrong?

Hmm possibly. A particularly gifted runner might bunt for a base hit in that situation, planning to steal second, particularly if the score is tied.
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(Deleted hebephrenic )
I see no need for any hebephrenic plonk,

Cordially,

My ass, you fraud!
Eric Walker

Wordy (but Cordial) Walker used "hebephrenic" again! And again as no Truly "careful writer" (his own characterization) would use it. "...a plonk" is perfect English except for hebephrenic & hyper-verbose gasbag Eric "Owlshit" Walker.
There's got to be a reason for his frequent and superfluous use of "hebephrenic." Is that hebephrenic farshtunkene goy an anti-Semite who's sneaking in the blatant "Hebe" slur and cackling like a hebephrenic maniac for getting away with it?

Reinhold (Rey) Aman
****phrenophobe
Neither does yours.

Very true. But I am not the author of a grammar manual (yet), I just go by what the respected ... hand that sets forth "A total . . . are" as a grammatically sound construction? Tell us which and where.

I'm afraid I don't. Neither the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language nor The American Heritage Usage Guide , as far as I can tell, contains any specific mention of the word "total" in this sense, either to approve or to condemn. American Heritage has a brief article on "number", whose behavior I think is similar to "total" (though not the same), which can be read at . The Cambridge Grammar contains a brief section on "number-transparent nouns", which mentions "number", "lot", and "rest" ("the rest of the candidates are..."), among others. "Total" is not listed, but the list given is not claimed to be comprehensive; on the contrary, it is described as a list of "the main number-transparent verbs".
In this case, grammar requires "are", not "is". "A total ... of an English-language publication allowing such a construction to stand.

One: it does not sound "ungrammatical", it sounds peculiar, which it indeed is.

I disagree. To my ear, at least, it does not sound significantly less "peculiar" than "The rest of the candidates is still standing." It sounds to me like a construction a native speaker of English would never use, one that an educated non-native speaker might occasionally use and thereby give him- or herself away.
It's equally possible to make the reverse argument. Consider the ... that the verb must be plural . . . .

Look up "begging the question".

I don't think my "the verb must be plural" is any more begging the question than your "'of six candidates' is a prepositional phrase... 'total', the governing noun."
At any rate, whether or not "are" is obligatory in "A total of six candidates are standing" is an empirical question; it can be answered by investigating whether (educated) native speakers would say, write, or accept the sentence with "is". It is my belief that they would not. Whether or not something is a prepositional phrase, and so forth, is at best a second-order question, involving theory.
-Aaron J. Dinkin
Dr. Whom
(details at eleven . . . but meanwhile)

For clarity, that should have been
In the form "X is/are Ying" &c.
The argument does not work backward from assuming the verb number form.
More tomorrow, when the chardonnay has been duly handled by my liver.

Cordially,
Eric Walker
My opinions on English are available at
http://owlcroft.com/english /
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
Very true. But I am not the author of a ... as a grammatically sound construction? Tell us which and where.

I'm afraid I don't. . . .

(various citations omitted for brevity, not dismissively)

Sure, it pains everyone with the least beginnings of an ear for sound English to hear or read either "A number of men is wearing hats this season" *or* "A number of men are wearing hats this season". What I fail to understand is the profound refusal by some here, as a percentage, many to accept the concept aptly labelled by Garner as "skunked terms", damned if you do and damned if you don't. Till we can write, with no least tremor or tic, "The number of members of the U.S. Senate are one hundred", we cannot safely write "A number of men are wearing hats this season." Till we can write, with no least tremor or tic, "A number of men is wearing hats this season", we cannot write, well, that sentence.
Since neither condition prevails, nor looks like to do so in the reasonably near or foreseeable future, the clear, plain, simple, and one would have thought uncontroversial conclusion is that neither form can be used by any writer intending a communication of thought both precise and elegant. The end.

But, it seems, it is not the end.
Why it is not the end escapes me, as do all activities of minds that, as Rex Stout had it, "soar". The *** thing stinks: handle it, and your writing stinks. What is so very hard to understand there? What part of "stinks" do you not understand?
But no: the diehard Comrades must have it that The People (to whom All Power) have decided that "A number . . . are" is a valid construction. But, as with all representations of what The People think, we are obliged to deal with what the self- appointed interpreters of The Will Of The People (who have, oh no, *no* axe whatever to grind) have to say.
OK, Representatives, fine: you write "a number . . . are" and the sane rest of us (anyone else here?) will simply avoid poking our fingers into the stools and write and say things that no one can have any difficulty with. See you in Scotland.
One: it does not sound "ungrammatical", it sounds peculiar, which it indeed is.

I disagree. To my ear, at least, it does not sound significantly less "peculiar" than "The rest of the candidatesis ... English would never use, one that an educated non-native speaker might occasionally use and thereby give him- or herself away.

Fine, my mistake trying to grasp what you, or anyone, would find sounds "ungrammatical". But please, stop me if you've heard this one it sounds like we all agree (gasp!) that both constructions "sound" lousy.
Look up "begging the question".

I don't think my "the verb must be plural" is any more begging the question than your "'of six candidates' is a prepositional phrase... 'total', the governing noun."

Really. If we disregard, as we should, the number form of the verb, we still have the form "X is/are Ying". However can you argue that X is not a noun phrase? Taking my own question as rhetorical, I move on: "A total of six candidates" must then necessarily be a noun phrase. I think anyone taken with the idea of assaulting this analysis is going to hit the wall on that one: it simply and obviously is .
If we assume, as I do, that that is so, then what do we make of the words "of six candidates"? Does anyone want to suggest that "of" is not a preposition there? Or that "of six candidates" is not therefore a prepositional phrase? Taking that, too, to be rhetorical, we move along.
In fact, though, we don't have to move very far along. "A total blurm" is not hard to analyze if we are given that "blurm" is a prepositional phrase; it is an adjective modifying "total". (Try that on the assumption that "blurm" is a noun and "total" an adjective: let me see "of six candidates" as a noun phrase.)
C'mon, c'mon: tell me that "of six candidates is not a prepositional phrase, or, that if it is, it is not adjectival. Really. But do first consider your dignity.
At any rate, whether or not "are" is obligatory in "A total of six candidates are standing" is an empirical ... (educated) native speakers would say, write, or accept the sentence with "is". It is my belief that they would not.

With all due civility, that is not an investigatory result. My own opinion is that "educated native speakers" would not happily accept either alternative, which is an opinion I have been trying to get into the spotlight from the get-go. And "it is my belief that they would not."
Whether or not something is a prepositional phrase, and so forth, is at best a second-order question, involving theory.

Oh, c'mon: you know better than that. Don't disappoint me.

Cordially,
Eric Walker
My opinions on English are available at
http://owlcroft.com/english /
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