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Which is the correct form:

  1. one of those men who doesn't
  2. one of those men who don't

I searched in Google Books and found 9 results for doesn't and 5 results for don't. Maybe both options are acceptable? If yes, is there a difference in meaning?

Examples:

“Perhaps Dr.Winter is one of those men who doesn't believe females should be exposed to the unpleasantness of illness,” Dr. Hubbell suggested acerbically. (Victoria Thompson)

... now and then, a story that would frighten you to death if you were one of those men who don't know how to smile in time. (Joseph Conrad)

  • 1
    It should be "doesn't", because if you leave out the prepositional phrase you get "one who doesn't". You wouldn't say "one who don't". But according to the (so-called) proximity rule some people will match the verb tense with the nearest preceding noun (in your second example "men"). Being plural you can then use "don't". See Is “proximity” a real grammatical rule? and other related posts. – user3169 Feb 13 '17 at 7:12
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    Who ya gonna trust? Joseph Conrad, who got his advice on the English language from the novelist Ford Madox Ford, or the author of Blazing Texas Nights? victoriathompson.com/Blazing_Texas_Nights.html – Tᴚoɯɐuo Feb 13 '17 at 11:01
  • @TRomano - I like Conrad, but sometimes writers, and particularly great writers, have peculiarities of style and grammar that stray from the accepted norm, so one is never sure. I also would prefer the plural here. – CowperKettle Feb 13 '17 at 11:23
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    I agree with your intuition about the plural. Does it become clearer in your mind if you omit the noun? One of those who .... – Tᴚoɯɐuo Feb 13 '17 at 11:30
5

Dr. Winter is one of those men who doesn't believe females should be exposed to the unpleasantness of illness.

In my opinion, the verb should be plural here, and the reason for that is that "who don't believe ..." defines "those men".

Here, it is not important that he is one of some men, but that he is among those who don't believe does matter.

The question could be:

One of which men is Dr. Winter? Of those who believe or don't believe …?

And the answer would be:

He's one of those who don't believe ...

At the same time, this link shows that the use of verb in singular—although less common— is also possible, but this seems to be due to the authors' preferences sooner than their applying a certain grammar rule.

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3

Let's take a look at this sentence and what it contains.

"Perhaps Dr.Winter is one of those men who doesn't believe females should be exposed to the unpleasantness of illness"

  • Dr. Winter is a man.
  • We assume he's in a group of men.
  • A group of men don't believe...

Now look what happens when I write this:

  • There's a group of men who don't believe females should be exposed to the unpleasantness of illness
  • He's one of those men.
  • He's one of those men who don't believe...

It's clearer, isn't it? It looks confusing at first because it looks like the pronoun "who" stands in for Dr. Winter since we're talking about him, but if you break down the sentence you notice that it stands in for "those men" instead. The subject-verb agreement dictates that a plural subject must have a plural verb so it would be correct like this:

Perhaps Dr.Winter is one of those men who don't believe females should be exposed to the unpleasantness of illness

or we can rephrase it to have a singular subject:

Perhaps Dr.Winter is someone who doesn't believe females should be exposed to the unpleasantness of illness

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