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Let us say, I have been given two sentences in an MCQ test and I need to pick up the correct one.

  • He is one of the men who do the work.
  • He is one of the men who does the work.

Somehow, I lean towards the second one ("It is I who am to blame", the one sentence memorized to take care of cases like this), but I have found some grammar books supporting the first one.

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    I think you memorized a right sentence for the wrong reason. It is I ... is a cleft sentence, not to be confused with I am one of those men who .... I think your example is probably debatable. Compare: "He is [the only one of the men] who does the work." and "He is one of [the men who do the work]." See also: english.stackexchange.com/questions/134539/… – Damkerng T. Sep 6 '14 at 16:03
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The second one is the better choice, because does agrees with one. Here, men is the target of the preposition of. The phrase of the men serves to qualify one; it is not the subject of the clause.

If you remove of the men, you can see that does is correct (though one then needs a specifier; I add the to fulfil this requirement):

He is the one who does the work.

The emphasis here is on a single man. Though he is not the only one who does the work, he is the subject of discussion. The sentence isn't talking about a group of men; it's talking about one man who also happens to be part of a group. Thus, do should be conjugated to agree with one.

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    I read your answer and I am not sure which one you prefer as is. It sounds like you seem to prefer does in both He is one of the men who does the work, and He is the one who does the work. – Damkerng T. Sep 6 '14 at 16:08
  • Regarding the sentences presented in the question, I definitely prefer the second version, he is one of the men who does the work. You are right that I use does in both cases, because the both employ the singular subject one. – Esoteric Screen Name Sep 6 '14 at 16:12
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    I beg to differ (on the OP's case). However, as I stated in my comment posted directly to the OP, I think it's debatable, and this is probably an edge case. I think I'd prefer He is one of the men who do the work, but He is the one of the men who does the work, and yet the context could change my mind. (By the way, there are several ambiguous cases where I've seen both usages, e.g. "I am one of the people who ...", "I am one of those people who ...", "I am one of the men who ...", "I am one of those men who ..." To me, some of them are clear (which one to use), but some aren't. – Damkerng T. Sep 6 '14 at 16:20
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    Hmm... I think I got an idea about this. I think the difference in our preferences is based on different contexts we assume for the example sentence. I think you could read He is one of the men who ... as if it is in a context where the men has already been clearly defined, so He is the one who does it fits better. However, if we assume that this is an opening sentence, the men is undefined, thus it should be read as the men who do the work, and he is just one of them. Context is very important, I think. – Damkerng T. Sep 6 '14 at 16:38
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    An excellent point, as context is extremely important in English. My answer alludes to this (he is one is the independent clause and emphasizes the singular man rather than the group doing the work) but further elaboration might call for a different reading than my initial reaction. – Esoteric Screen Name Sep 6 '14 at 16:38
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The object of a preposition can NEVER be the subject of the sentence. One is the subject; men is the object of the preposition of.

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I know that it sounds wrong, but option 1 is the correct answer. The antecedent of "who," the subject of the relative clause, is "men." To achieve subject-verb agreement, the situation calls for the plural verb "do" to agree with "men" (as in "men do," not "men does").

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