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Let's say there were men who went to school. Each student was at least obtained only 1 diploma (undergraduate). Then which sentence is grammatical?

The figure for Australian men who studied at school obtained an undergraduate school diploma was 37%.

Or

The figure for Australian men who studied at school obtained undergraduate school diplomas was 37%.

Should I use the singular or plural?

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  • My answer covers the direct question - whether diploma should be singular or plural - but neither of your sentences is actually grammatical. You need something to go between school and obtained, and what depends on just what you are trying to say. It could be "who studied at school and obtained". The sentence is still iffy, but at least it wouldn't be broken.
    – SamBC
    Mar 25, 2019 at 11:10

2 Answers 2

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Your sentence is ungrammatical in other respects.

Correcting it, it can be minimally rephrased to avoid all ambiguity:

The figure for Australian men who studied at school [and who each] obtained an undergraduate school diploma was 37%.


Your second sentence, with one slight correction, would normally also be fine:

The figure for Australian men who studied at school [and] obtained undergraduate school diplomas was 37%.

It could be misinterpreted (either to mean that each man received two or more diplomas or that all of the men collectively received two or more diplomas), but it would be extremely unlikely for anybody to interpret it that way.

But if you want to be certain that there is no misunderstanding, use the first (rephrased) version.

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  • Thx for the "and who each" phrase to help me with my sentence, that's what I was trying to get. Also, what if I just use obtained "their" diplomas? Does it mean the same thing? (1 diplomas for each student)
    – John Arvin
    Mar 25, 2019 at 18:16
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    @JohnArvin Their diplomas would be taken in the same sense as the second version of the sentence. (Possibly as ambiguous, if their is thought to be used as the gender-neutral singular third person.) I would personally have no problem with that use. Mar 25, 2019 at 21:01
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Each obtained a single diploma; you should use the singular. However, everyone will know what you mean either way, and I'm not sure anyone but a fussy grammarian would call either incorrect.

Aside from that, though, since you asked, neither sentence is grammatical (at time of writing).

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  • Neither sentence seems grammatical to me regardless of whether diploma is plural or not.
    – ColleenV
    Mar 25, 2019 at 11:07
  • Oh yeah, neither of them is grammatical; I was saving that observation for a comment, seeing as it's not actually the question.
    – SamBC
    Mar 25, 2019 at 11:08

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