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Are the sentences below correct?

The average temperature peaks at 25 degrees in London and 30 degrees in New York.

The average temperature in both cities drops between July and September.

I’m struggling to understand why sometimes it’s acceptable to use singular when talking about two cities.

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  • The average temperature drops, good. And maybe the average temperature in each city drops, but not one average in both. May 23 at 11:21
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    It's fine. This is the distributional use of the NP subject "average temperature" which refers to each of both cities.
    – BillJ
    May 23 at 12:46
  • See answers on 'the distributive singular [/ distributive plural]' by Shoe here and EA here. May 23 at 13:24

1 Answer 1

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Ask yourself what peaks / drops?

In each case it's the temperature. The temperature is singular and requires a singular verb.

It is not relevant whether it peaks or drops in a dozen places as long as the subject is the temperature.

Take an example that illustrates the point.

John gives his mother a kiss and his father a hug before he leaves. The subject remains John - singular.

A much trickier example is the following, one I have heard two BBC correspondents get wrong.

One in five students at the city university IS Scottish.

Once again, the subject is one, requiring the singular verb is. It is one that is Scottish, not five that are. Many people would tend wrongly to say are Scottish, because the verb follows more closely on students.

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