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I read the following sentence in a game rule book:

An item card includes: a count of how many of this item are in the game and where this card lies within that count.

Is this gramatically correct, or does the use of the singular "this item" require "are" to become "is"?

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    Hello Darren. Try to avoid questions that can be answered in single word. "Yes" or "No". Please explain why you doubt this expression,
    – James K
    Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 6:53
  • Correction: where does this card lie or come
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 17:35
  • 1
    @James K Hello James, I've edited my question as you suggested. Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 17:40

4 Answers 4

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It is a syntactically valid string of words according to the conventions of the English language. Absent context, it doesn’t have any one clear meaning, but its syntax is unobjectionable.

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  • Thanks, I've edited the question to provide the context. Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 17:42
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Well, it's not actually a full sentence, just a fragment. I'm guessing it's used to label something, or perhaps has been taken from its context, like

ItemCount: A count of how many...

Beyond, that, there are at least two confusing things. One is that the word "count" is most often used as a verb in casual conversation. It's used here as a noun. That's a legitimate use, one covered in Merriam-Webster as "a total obtained by counting," but it's something you might not run into every day. Another confusing thing is that whatever this sentence fragment describes is both "a count" and a placement "within that count." This doesn't make sense on the surface, but it might if we're describing something that has multiple pieces of information. For instance, on the tv show Star Trek Voyager, the character "Seven of Nine" was named that because there were nine people on her ship and she had been assigned the number seven. So you could say that her name conveyed "both a count of the people on her ship and her place within that count."

EDIT: I'm sorry, I missed one of your central concerns, "this item are" vs "this item is." Plural is appropriate because the noun that goes with this verb is not "item" but "many." It's a count of "how many [of this item] are in."

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  • Thanks. You're correct, it's a label. I've edited the question to include this. Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 17:44
  • @DarrenJordan Oh, and I missed part of your question; edited to address it more directly. Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 18:18
  • Nice to see you back Andy!
    – gotube
    Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 19:31
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Yes, it's grammatically correct.

The phrase "of this item" provides detail about what "how many" refers to (how many of what?), and is not the subject of "are". The complete subject of "are" is "how many of this item", with "how many" as its head, and "how many" is always plural.

Further, "this item" could be replaced with "these items" without changing the meaning:

An item card includes a count of how many of these items are in the game.

The difference here is that "this item" refers to the abstract concept of the item in general, whereas "these items" refers to the actual individual items. The abstract concept version carries the additional nuance that all the items are identical. The other version does not have this nuance, so the items could all be different in some way.

Both are correct and natural ways to modify "how many".

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There are two different "counts":
(1) "how many of this item." (2) "where this card lies."

Yet, the subject of the main clause is singular, "A count", the main verb is already plural, "are". And "count" is not an uncountable noun, so the original sentence has subject / verb disagreement.

option 1:
"A count of how many of this item is in the game, and where this card lies within that count is in the game."
option 2:
"Counts of how many of this item are in the game and where this card lies within that count."

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  • Sorry, this got a bit confused. The verb "is" isn't meant to go with "count," but with "many." It's like saying "A story of how the Smurfs became blue." The story didn't become blue, the Smurfs did. The misunderstanding is understandable because we have a sentence fragment, which in fact has no main verb. Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 15:17

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