English grammar question! have vs has
June 22, 2022 10:11 PM   Subscribe

I'm a native speaker but I can't remember this rule!

So would the proper sentence be the first or the second one? They both sound wrong to me!

1. Have the industrial revolution and its consequences been a disaster for the human race?

2. Has the industrial revolution and its consequences been a disaster for the human race?

Basically it comes down to whether the subject is considered plural or singular, right? If so, I would think the first one is correct. I think when it's phrased as a question I get thrown off.
posted by CancerSucks to Writing & Language (12 answers total)
 
Right. #1 could be rewritten as... The industrial revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race.
posted by oceano at 10:13 PM on June 22 [2 favorites]


What oceano said.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:20 PM on June 22


Best answer: 1, because 3rd person plural takes have rather than has.

Consider:

Have Susan and her friends had enough to eat?

Vs.

Has Susan and her friends had enough to eat?
posted by Candleman at 10:57 PM on June 22 [5 favorites]


The second would be fine if "and its consequences" was just an aside in spoken English. Then it could be restated as just "Has the industrial revolution been a disaster?"

Like "Is Odovocar -- what? fine, and all his family too -- a human?"

The right thing to do here is probably to disambiguate what your emphasis is. Either write "Have the industrial revolution's consequences been a disaster" or "Has the industrial revolution been a disaster".

Or, even better, "Were the industrial revolution's consequences a disaster?" or "Was the industrial revolution a disaster?" The "have been" phrasing implies that whether it was a disaster is variable; maybe it was a disaster in March of 1927 but might not be now, while "was" implies an overall final judgment.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 4:30 AM on June 23 [5 favorites]


As GCU Sweet points out, either one can be correct, depending on your meaning.

My ear prefers #2, because I read "the industrial revolution and its consequences" as a single thing that should be considered as a whole. This matches the singularity of "disaster".

In contrast, I would use "have" in the following sentences:

3. Have the industrial revolution and its consequences been a disasters for the human race?

4. Have the industrial revolution or its consequences been a disaster for the human race?

But in the original version, you are essentially saying "Has it been a disaster?" where 'it' = 'the industrial revolution and its consequences'. This all depends on the sense of 'the industrial revolution and its consequences'.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 5:39 AM on June 23 [1 favorite]


But "and its consequences" is not a separate "person", is it?

So "Have Susan and her friends had enough to eat?" but surely not
"Have Susan, and her inability to turn up on time, caused the delay?". So my vote is for #2. I'd also add some commas in there for good measure.
posted by Dotty at 5:57 AM on June 23 [4 favorites]


4. Have the industrial revolution or its consequences been a disaster for the human race?

This is incorrect. With "or," you would absolutely use "has" instead of "have."

(This is for American English. I don't know whether British English is different on this.)
posted by FencingGal at 6:15 AM on June 23 [3 favorites]


“Have”. But, what if you do this:

Has the industrial revolution — and its consequences — been a disaster for the human race?
Has the industrial revolution (and its consequences) been a disaster for the human race?


Suddenly, this is an aside and a subordinate (that could be removed), and my ears like “has” more. The subject is much more clearly just “the industrial revolution”.

As GCU Sweet said, the only way to really win is to avoid getting into such ambiguous territory in the first place, where possible.
posted by breakfast burrito at 6:54 AM on June 23 [4 favorites]


Has the industrial revolution with its consequences been a disaster? (framing rev+consequences as one thing)

Have the Industrial Revolutions on successive continents been equally disastrous? (we are expected to think of several of them, they must be plural)

I am chewing over FencingGal's rule because it seems to me to expect an exclusive or:

Is A or B true? Which is it?

Vs

Are A or B true? Or both?

(I am reminded of the Dorothy Sayers reference to asking a question that, in Latin, grammatically expects a refusal.)
posted by clew at 8:16 AM on June 23


voting with breakfast burrito and GCU Sweet: the "and its consequences" is unnecessary padding and makes for weaker writing

eta: Candleman is correct, of course, but the phrase is unnecessary and really terrible—don't ever do this because it makes your writing tiresome
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 8:23 AM on June 23 [2 favorites]


Has. "The industrial revolution and its consequences" is such a general overarching concept that it's a singular thing. If you were to specify a list of some specific consequences (implying only these ones were relevant) then have might be a runner, but would still sound ugly and would be better rephrased to group them first and then talk about them. And still they are really just a part of "the industrial revolution", which in itself implies its consequences. What is the industrial revolution if its consequences are removed?
posted by tillsbury at 3:17 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Also, as stated above you pretty much answer your own question by ending with "a disaster".

Two separate (and independent) things would call for the have: Have the industrial revolution and the rise of the Daleks been disasters for the human race?
posted by tillsbury at 8:33 PM on June 24


« Older How best to repair a rip in the cushion support of...   |   Candor, maybe, for once Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments