A committee comprising(A) / of eminent members (B)/ from various technical institutions was set up.(C)

This is an error spotting question which I think can be corrected by replacing comprising by comprised in part A or by omitting of from part B , Although my book suggests latter correction but I think the former correction is better since from the clause in part C it's explicit that the sentence is in passive voice so it's better to have part A in passive voice as well. Am I correct ?


Original: I would agree with you that the correction to "comprised of" is the better of the two options, but not for the reason you give.

If the sentence reads "A committee comprising eminent members...," then that means the committee makes up the members. That is illogical because the members are (each) singular people, while the committee is a collective.

What makes more sense is "A committee comprised of eminent members..." In that case, the singular members collectively make up the committee.

In either case, the sentence is still in passive voice because "was set up" is the main verb phrase, and it's passive. Everything from "A committee" to "institutions" is just one big noun phrase.

Edit: Interestingly, Merriam-Webster lists both opposite interpretations as possible meanings of comprise: the first meaning where parts comprise the whole, and the second meaning where the whole comprises the parts.

There is a nice editor's note about how the interpretation of the whole comprising the parts was most common for a long time but now, more recently, the parts comprising the whole (the version I say that I think is more correct above) has become more common.

All that said, I think it's fair to say both "A committee comprising..." and "A committee comprised of..." would be perfectly grammatical. Your textbook appears to favor the more traditional meaning, whereas I, apparently, have come to regard the newer meaning as more correct.

Both versions are completely intelligible either way – I would interpret the sentence the same way no matter which revision you made – but the one I argue for in the top half of this answer is the one that sounds more natural to my ear, as a native speaker of American English. Others may well disagree.

  • Sorry but I don't think your explanation is correct. Perhaps it didn't come home to me properly. I checked the meaning of comprise in dictionary according to which it means to include/to consist of . I am quoting one of the examples which are given in the dictionary : The advisory board comprises six members. This sentence is very much similar to the clause concerned and going by your explanation even this sentence will be illogical but it I don't think a dictionary will cite a wrong example. – user212388 Sep 7 '17 at 0:08
  • @user212388 Thanks for pointing this out. I consulted a dictionary before I wrote this, but only briefly to make sure I wasn't totally off-base. After digging in a bit more, I have edited my answer. Hopefully it's helpful to you. – cjl750 Sep 7 '17 at 0:30

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