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This sentence was made as an example by my trainer:

Is the s-v-a in this sentence correct?

Two teaspoons of sugar IS more than enough.

According to the rule: The singular verb form is usually used for units of measurement.

But, is teaspoon not considered a partitive too?

  • Did your trainer say it was correct or incorrect? – Catija Jan 21 '17 at 0:51
  • He did say it's correct. But, we were confused because we thought partitives can make an uncountable noun countable. He just did not explain why it is as it is. – Zakiya Jan 21 '17 at 2:24
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    Actually, it's not a partitive NP. A partitive would be, for example, "Some of the sugar is missing". "Two teaspoons of sugar" is simply a noun phrase with "teaspoons" as head and "of sugar" as complement. Measure expressions like "two teaspoons" can be conceptualised as a single entity which can override the normal plural verb so singular "is" is okay – BillJ Jan 21 '17 at 10:15
  • Thank you for the explanations. I really need to study it to understand it better. – Zakiya Jan 21 '17 at 13:27
  • I've posted a more detailed answer for you. – BillJ Jan 21 '17 at 13:31
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Two teaspoons of sugar is more than enough.

Actually, it's not a partitive construction. Partitives normally require a definite noun phrase, the kind with the determiner "the", as in Some of the sugar is missing, or a genitive pronoun, as in Some of his food was eaten. But in Two teaspoons of sugar, "sugar" is not a definite noun, so this is simply a noun phrase with teaspoons as head and of sugar as complement.

Partitive is intended to denote a part rather the whole thing. Some of his food is a partitive construction in that the partitive his food denotes a quantity and Some of his food denotes a subquantity of that quantity. We understand it to mean Some food from his larger quantity of food was eaten.

Measure phrases like the plural two teaspoons in your example can be conceptualised as referring to a single measure which can override the plural form in determining the form of the verb. Which is why singular "is" is fine.

  • Okay. That's much easier to understand. Thank you :) – Zakiya Jan 21 '17 at 13:50
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"Two teaspoons of sugar is more than enough" is correct. "Teaspoon" is a partitive noun and "two teaspoons of sugar" is a partitive phrase, which should be referred to with a singular verb.

Edit: The example given above is no partitive construction, as others have pointed out, but rather a genitive construction. "Two teaspoons of sugar is more than enough" is correct because "two teaspoons" is being conceptualized as a single entity and "of sugar" is merely describing the "material," if you will, that the teaspoons are made of. (I mean not the literal teaspoons, but rather the thing that the teaspoons are measuring. :-)

  • So even if there is a numeral adjective, it is still singular because the object of the preposition is uncountable? – Zakiya Jan 21 '17 at 2:26
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    'Partitive' is a type of construction, not a type of noun. There's nothing partitive about "Two teaspoons of sugar", unlike say "He stole some of the sugar" which really is partitive. The verb is singular because "Two teaspoons" of sugar" is conceptualised as a single entity, a quantity of sugar, which can (optionally) override the plural form in determining the verb-form. – BillJ Jan 21 '17 at 10:39
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    @BillJ, you're correct, I misidentified the construction. However, in response to your answer above, it's worth pointing out that partitive doesn't need a definite noun phrase: "two teaspoons of my sugar," "one half of a sugar cube," "three of those sugar packets" would all be partitive constructions, as well. – earksiinni Jan 22 '17 at 4:20
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    @Zakiya, the uncountableness of "sugar" has nothing to do with it--I messed up and BillJ is correct. – earksiinni Jan 22 '17 at 4:26
  • No prob. THANK YOU for explaining. Although all of you have been patient to explain it, I still think I have to study it :) – Zakiya Jan 22 '17 at 4:53

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