"He and others find that these mRNA's direct,in large part,the synthesis of histones, a class of proteins that bind to DNA. "

It seems to me that perhaps the main verb is "is" (mRNA is direct). But I don't see a connection like a preposition between "mRNA's direct" and "the synthesis of histone". Also, there is a "is" - "mRNA's ", so I assume direct couldn't be a verb.

I can understand there are a subject, a main verb, and a main object. Seems everything is in there. But this sentence still seems weird to me. Why is this sentence a complete sentence? "mRNA's direct the synthesis of histones" : Looks weird to me.

Source: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/206/4416/315 Or you may view the below screenshot if it can not be zoom in.

enter image description here

  • There actually is no is: "mRNA's" is the plural of mRNA, because some people use an apostrophe to make an abbreviation plural. Does that help you understand the sentence better?
    – stangdon
    Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 11:29
  • Duplicate of this closed post on ELU.
    – Davo
    Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 12:02
  • It said I couldn't post this type of question on ELU and recommend me post here, so I post here Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 12:32
  • stangdon - Thank you. You solved my question! Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 12:41
  • What makes you think the 'main' verb is "is"? Where is it?
    – BillJ
    Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 14:52

1 Answer 1


"In large part" is an idiomatic way of saying 'mostly'.

When a phrase is enclosed in parenthetical commas, as this is, you should be able to read the sentence without it and it make grammatical sense. Let's also take the explanation of histones as being parenthetic and look at the sentence now:

He and others find that these mRNA's direct the synthesis of histones.

The sentence is perfectly grammatical.

That isn't to say that the parenthetical information should be ignored - it is important to the statement that these findings were only correct in the main. The explanation of what histones are is presumably also useful, unless the reader already knows this information.

Note that the apostrophe in "mRNA's" does not denote a possessive or a contraction. Apostrophes are sometimes used to separate the 's' when the plural is an initialism. This is to avoid any confusion that the 's' might be part of it. That is especially useful when the abbreviation contains both upper and lower case characters, as mRNA does.

  • "sometimes used to separate the 's' when the plural is an abbreviation" should be "sometimes used to separate the 's' when the plural is an acronym". It is not normal to use an apostrophe for an abbreviation, for example "Sarah sent me the sales stats this morning".
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 12:13
  • Thank you. The part regarding apostrophe solved my question. Really helpful! Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 12:40
  • @JavaLatte mRNA is not an acronym. If it is, please can you tell me how to pronounce it?
    – Astralbee
    Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 12:58
  • You should also point out that the main verb here is “find”.
    – StephenS
    Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 13:05
  • @StephenS I think the OP was only struggling to identify the verb because they were confused by the construction. Now that I've deconstructed it, this should be obvious - and they have already said that it has solved their question.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 13:13

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