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Today I read this sentence somewhere on stackexchange.com (I don't add a source because I don't want to blame anybody):

The [...] postulate [..] is that there is no experiment that determine the state of motion of any inertial frame relative to the outside world [...].

Initially I thought that it shall be "determines" instead but I'm uncertain since it got written by a native English speaker.

Who's right?

  • Somehow I knew the source before checking - I had just clicked that question open in another tab from the hot network questions. But there is little reason to assume this is anything but a typo for to determine, that determines or that can determine. – oerkelens Nov 14 '14 at 12:33
  • In the same answer that you quote from, the author also writes "The speed of light is the measured to be the same in all inertial reference frames". That the does not belong there, either. So indeed I think it's safe to assume typos or honest mistakes, rather than obscure but correct use of English :) – oerkelens Nov 14 '14 at 12:45
  • Unless you want to sound jarringly dialectal, use was written, not got written. – user6951 Nov 14 '14 at 16:45
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This is just a typographical error.

You are right in that it should be determines, although can determine would also be acceptable.

The sentence as written could be an error for either possibility.

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You're right. The noun & verb should agree in number, singular or plural. The person that posted the statement should have proofread & edited before clicking the Post button. That would be a good practice for anyone posting to any site.

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  • Is it really about the number? – Fytch Nov 14 '14 at 15:26
  • @Conclusio I'm not sure about your use of the indefinite pronoun, it. If you mean the topic, no. The content is what's important. If you mean the grammar, yes. According to The Blue Book of Grammar, a singular subject takes a singular verb, whereas a plural subject takes a plural verb. – JimM Nov 14 '14 at 15:48

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