A Grammar Question

A question that will start with a rant. American sportscasters, who understand that “team” is a singular noun, will say, in reference to a basketball team, “The team is ready for the season.” Because they are referring to a single, specific team.

But those same talkers will say of a Soccer club, “The team are ready for the season.” As much as England gets its collective nouns wrong, it is offensively pretentious to suspend grammar when discussing something related to the old world. What the heck, why not just speak Portuguese when talking about soccer?

*deep breath*

Anyway, I’m here to discuss grammar with numbers. Recently I wrote “there is a bazillion power poles…” I read that a few times, uncertain. “There are a bazillion…” sounds more natural, and that’s probably my answer to my question. Eventually I changed that episode.

But “there are bazillions” is one thing, “there is a bazillion” is another. How many bazillions? One. A bazillion. By that logic, “There is a bazillion power poles” is correct. It just doesn’t ring right. Perhaps “There is a bazillion <preposition> power poles.” That reads better, but there’s no simple preposition that makes sense there. “There’s a bazillion of them dang power poles” certainly reads well.

I’m pretty sure the presence of a prepositional phrase should not affect the verb of the sentence, which backs up the “there is a bazillion” argument.

It just sounds wrong sometimes, is all. Can anyone supply the Ultimate Grammar Truth?


5 thoughts on “A Grammar Question

  1. Consider something simpler that doesn’t involve a relatively slangy word: “There is two power poles” or “There are two power poles”. Or “There is a lot of power poles” or “There are a lot of power poles”.

    And for the kicker, “There is a million power poles” or “There are a million power poles”.

    I’m pretty sure “There are a bazillion” is correct.

  2. You (OK, I) wouldn’t ever say “there is exactly one bazillion hornets in my brain” and that’s even more precise than “a” which can, like, be less indefinite than it usually is, in the “there are a ton of bricks there” sense (i.e. “there are, like, a shitton of bricks”).

    So, doesn’t matter (to me) whether the 1 bazillion is precise or not, it’s still going to use a plural verb. The only exception I can see is Q&A: “how many bazillion are there?” “there IS one” … but that’s no longer a question about a plural noun.

    The real problem comes in when people say something wrong so often that grammatically correct sounds wrong, and I don’t know what to do with that. The data ARE still unhelpful there.

    I also have problems with “there ARE 1/2 as many bulls as cows”. Or, the word “plural”. One of those two

    • I have come to peace with “there is a million of…” versus “there are a million…”.

      In the first “million” is the subject – the numbered thing is buried in a prepositional phrase, while in the second, the subject is the numbered thing.

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