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It was difficult for me to complete the project with Drek because he is one of those persons who think he is always right.

Is the sentence above right?

I think it's not correct since one of those persons is singular. So, we have to use singular verb thinks.

So, the sentence would be

It was difficult for me to complete the project with Drek because he is one of those persons who thinks he is always right.

Am I right about my thinking? Or is it referring to only group of persons?

Consider other sentences like

He was one of those who goes to work by bike.

And

He was one of those who go to work by bike.

Which sentence is correct grammatically?

Could you please tell me which one who refers to in the sentences and grammar regarding this usage?

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    It's probably not your concern here but I think if it's a sentence that you want to use in your writing piece I suggest ... because he thinks he is always right. Good writing is concise and to the point. Wordiness is not reader-friendly. – Yuri Oct 6 '16 at 11:38
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    @yuri Your example is quite different to the original. Here "one" is the unequivocal referent. But you can easily say "One of my dogs, which were sick, died." as well as "One of my dogs, which was sick, ran away." – DRF Oct 6 '16 at 12:12
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    @Yuri Leave this sentence. Consider He was one of those who goes to work by bike and He was one of those who go to work by bike. Which is correct grammatically? – Omkar Reddy Oct 6 '16 at 17:57
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    @Ganesh.R huh got it :). Both, but no.1 can be true in a very specific context. Number two is generally correct and the reason is that you're making him a member of a specific group sharing a feature (here going to work on a bike). One of those (who are those?! Those who go to work by bike). I can think of just one context that it can be right and it's when you refer to a group that don't share the specific feature you're talking about. Look at this e.g. you see all these students in this school? Mat is one of those who wants to be a climber. Not all Ss want to be a climber. – Yuri Oct 6 '16 at 18:18
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    @Yuri So, in general the verb should be plural in this case. Anyway thank you very much. – Omkar Reddy Oct 6 '16 at 18:28
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(This is not addressing OP's sentences although it deals with OP's concern over one of those noun who)

Does the verb following one of those noun who agree with one or those noun? Both are fine.

Where it is the subject that is relativised, the expectation would be that the number of the verb would be determined by the antecedent, giving a plural verb in Type I, and a singular in Type II. In practice, however, singular verbs are often found as alternants of plurals in Type I:

[22] i He's [one of those people who always want to have the last word]. (Type I)

ii He's [one of those people who always wants to have the last word]. (Type I)

iii He's [one of her colleagues who is always ready to criticise her]. (Type II)

Examples [i] and [iii] follow the ordinary rules, but [ii] involves a singular override. It can presumably be attributed to the salience within the whole structure of one and to the influence of the Type II structure (it is in effect a blend between Types I and II). But it cannot be regarded as a semantically motivated override: semantically the relative clause modifies people. This singular override is most common when the relative clause follows these or those + noun (520).

Source: Cambridge Grammar of the English Language by Rodney Huddleston & Geoffrey K. Pullum

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    Nice. I figured I'd try and check CGEL when I got home but you beat me to it. Very interesting. – DRF Oct 6 '16 at 20:00
  • @DRF The question was clever. BTW your take about he instead of they was brilliant. I didn't notice that before. I read your comment when I got back from work and it made me look again and think. – Yuri Oct 6 '16 at 20:06
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Of the two examples you give the second one is correct, but for me the reason is not "one of those persons" but rather the "he". Let me give examples:

Working with him was hard because he is one of those people/persons who think they are always right

Sounds perfectly fine to me. The reason I believe (and I'm not a linguist so take it with a grain of salt) is that the "who" can bind either to "one" or to "people". I.e. you can either parse it as "he is one of those (people who think they are always right)" or as "he is (one of those people) who thinks he is always right."

Notice that unless there is some other clue to the parsing you decide by the pronoun and that's less then perfect since there are situations where "they" might be a singular pronoun. Consider

The patient was one of those people who thinks they are always right.

Here we are using a singular they to convey the fact we don't know whether the patient is male or female.

  • So, who can refer to either he or group of persons. There is no certain rule regarding this. Right? – Omkar Reddy Oct 6 '16 at 16:44
  • pretty much. It depends on how you parse it. But you really want to ask someone who is better at sentence deconstruction. – DRF Oct 6 '16 at 16:51
  • Many such people are here but no one is interested in answering my question. – Omkar Reddy Oct 6 '16 at 16:56
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    @Ganesh.R As a native speaker, I would usually assume that "who" modifies the most recent noun, in this case "persons." If it were modifying the entire phrase "one of those persons," I would expect a pause in speech between "persons" and "who." In writing, I would put a comma after "persons" to represent this pause. It's not required, but it makes the meaning clearer. – cbh Oct 6 '16 at 19:18
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The second sentence is correct. The pronoun "who" refers to "one", as in "he is one ... who thinks".

It's generally a good technique to drop prepositional phrases when you're trying to find out what a pronoun is referring to.

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