Based on JavaLatte's answer to this question as well as on various dictionary definitions of the word "respective", I gather that the word serving as the head of a nounphrase premodified by "respective" needs to be plural – but what about the head of a nounphrase containing an "of"-phrase that in turn includes the word "relevant"? Should that always be plural as well? That is, in the following examples, which alternative correct – (a), (b), or both?

a) The chair of the respective committees is responsible for convening meetings

b) The chairs of the respective committees are responsible for convening meetings

I'm thinking that taken together, we're dealing with several chairs (since we're dealing with several committees), but on the other hand, there is (presumably) only one chair for each committee, and we are, after all, talking about each committee separately (I mean, that's the whole point of using "respective" in the first place, isn't it?), so... there seem to be arguments for both alternatives.

  • 2
    Note: "respective" and "respectively" are often unneeded. You include them only when they help prevent confusion. Committee chairs convene meetings: There is no need to "match" meetings with chairs. It's useful in a sentence like "John and Jim ate hot dogs and tacos." Did they both eat both foods? Add "respectively," and it's clear that John ate hot dogs and Jim ate tacos. Commented Jul 6, 2022 at 21:40

1 Answer 1


b) is correct in this case as even with 'respective', committees is still being referred to in a plural sense, and will require a plurality of chairs.

a) would make sense with your explanation (of separate committees) if it was framed in the following way:

The chair of each committee is responsible for convening meetings.

'respective' by itself cannot make the sentence refer to every single individual committee the way 'each' does


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .