I have two doubts about the following sentence:

Assignments are how data objects take on a new value.

The first is whether the subject-verb agreement is correct for the two verbs in the sentence. The second is whether the phrasal verb "take on" is correctly understood with the meaning of "to assume" a new value in the sentence.

Finally, it would be nice to know whether the sentence sounds natural or not to a native speaker.

Thank you,

2 Answers 2


It's a perfectly fine English sentence as proposed -- grammatically speaking.

But I'm not sure its grammar accurately reflects the meaning intended. I am wondering if it might be more accurately rendered as

Assignment is how data objects take on a new value.

Are we talking about assigning values? You know, with an assignment operator (e.g. ==, :=, etc)?

When we speak of abstract processes like "assignment", we use the singular. While it is technically correct to refer to the collection of instances of assignment as "assignments", as in your sentence, it is truly weird in IT/CompSci to do so, and should not be done.

  • Thanks! Would "Assignment statements are how data objects take on a new value" read any better? The text is about assignment statements.
    – rick
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 23:43
  • That's better, but I would go with either "Assignment statements are how data objects get new values" or "Data objects get new values by means of assignment statements". Or, you know, "Data objects are assigned new values with assignment statements". Commented May 8, 2014 at 0:07
  • +1 "Assignment statements are how data objects get new values," that's perfect, I'll run with this one. Thanks!
    – rick
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 18:01

As a programmer, it sounds very natural and is grammatically correct. To "take on" something is to assume responsibility of it or absorb it.

How do data objects take on values?

Through assignment operations.

"Assume" actually sounds a bit awkward to me in that sentence but would also be correct and would make sense.

The subject-verb agreement is fine since "are" is the verb and the subject is "assignments". "Take on" also agrees with "objects" with no problem.

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