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John's brother as well as I (a) / am guilty (b) of cheating Jason.(c)

This is an error spotting question asked in my exam, a friend told me that part B is wrong, he suggested to replace am with is , I agree that the helping Verb should agree with the subject preceding as well as but I suspect that that part A is wrong . The mistake is placement of first person pronoun. We usually follow rule of 2 3 1 ( 2 = second person 3 = third person 1 = first person ) in normal sentence but in sentences where the essence of sentence is somewhat negative such as we are talking responsibility for some wrong doing for something like that the rule becomes 1 2 3 .So going by this knowledge which I have the correct sentence should be I as well as John's brother am guilty of cheating Jason. Am I correct ?

  • It's a bad exam question. Partly because most native speakers would use me rather than I in this context. But mainly because there's really no good choice with such an awkward subject. Strictly speaking, as well as me/I is a "parenthetical" element which could in principle be discarded, so the "correct" verb form is the one that agrees with the non-optional (singular) element John's brother. Which gives us John's brother, as well as I, is guilty of cheating Jason, but this is such an ugly sentence most people would go for a more complete paraphrasing. – FumbleFingers Jun 19 '17 at 17:34
  • @FumbleFingers I think 'I' is correct here because long time ago I was in confusion when to use subjective / objective forms and I guess perhaps on SE or some other website I read that if any such confusion arises omit the preceding part and then check if the sentence sounds correct or not . E.g. consider this sentence - He and her/she is going to market if we omit 'He and' then clearly She fits best here so going by same rule . I fits best in the sentence which I posted in question. – user212388 Jun 19 '17 at 17:45
  • Well, I've already made the point that I don't think much of your exam question. For similar reasons, I don't think much of your idea about 'I' is correct here. If you aspire to know how to apply the "rules" of English better than native speakers then I wish you luck, but really there's not much to be gained by learning how to make the best of a bad job with a construction that simply doesn't suit English syntax in the first place. – FumbleFingers Jun 19 '17 at 17:51
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    Since we are talking about two people in "I as well as John's brother," the plural form are is "correct", but as @FumbleFingers says, this sentence would never be written or spoken by a native English speaker. To avoid the clumsiness of the "correct" verb here, we would say instead "John's brother and I are both guilty of cheating Jason", or something similar. In your question, you use the word "rule" several times; but English is not spoken or written according to "rules", and relying upon them often creates problems of the kind described here. – P. E. Dant Jun 19 '17 at 18:46
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    @FumbleFingers It is a procedural question rather than one regarding language, it seems to me. When a non-native speaker must endure an exam presented by yet another NNS, we can only advise that the OP conform to the "rules" of whatever imaginary version of English is being taught, in the interest of receiving a decent mark and exiting the misbegotten course as soon as possible. – P. E. Dant Jun 19 '17 at 19:50
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Two natural ways to phrase the sentence would be:

John's brother and I are guilty of cheating Jason.
John's brother is guilty of cheating Jason, and so am I.

It is not idiomatic English to say the following:

X John's brother as well as I am guilty of cheating Jason.
X I as well as John's brother am guilty of cheating Jason.

The "... and so am I" construction I gave in the top example is a good way to keep a sentence simple when the subjects are complex. For example:

I think that the legal system is too slow, and so does everybody else in my neighbourhood.

Incidentally, the same construction can also make it clear whether people should be considered as a group or as individuals:

My boss's husband and I own an expensive car. (This suggests that we own it together.)
My boss's husband owns an expensive car, and so do I. (We each own a car.)

With that in mind, one of the two versions above might be more appropriate, depending on the context: "John's brother and I are guilty" suggests that we may have collaborated with each other, while "John's brother is guilty, and so am I" suggests that we each cheated Jason individually.

  • I look in vain for the word parenthetical. – P. E. Dant Jun 20 '17 at 0:55
  • @P.E.Dant Could you elaborate on your comment? – Théophile Jun 20 '17 at 2:06
  • Msny readers will say that as well as John's brother is a parenthetical, and that this dictates the choice of the singular verb in the OP's example. See the question by our colleague @FumbleFingers at ELU (and his comments above.) Of course paraphrasing is the instinctive way for a NS to avoid the problem, but the subject is a little contentious... – P. E. Dant Jun 20 '17 at 2:13
  • @P.E.Dant I see; thank you for the explanation. I would say that such parenthetical constructions, however, are rarely idiomatic when one of the subjects is I. For instance, it would be odd to say, "I as well as my brother am going to the opera", or even worse, "My brother as well as I is going to the opera". – Théophile Jun 20 '17 at 2:21
  • Thus the can of worms described by @FumbleFingers above! – P. E. Dant Jun 20 '17 at 2:23

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