After ten years has passed you can apply for possession of the land.

Ten years have passed - ten long, lonely years - since Bill died at sea.

I wonder why is there has in first sentence?. I know if we use it as "a period of ten years" then we can use has.


"A short ten years has brought us to this point."

"An arduous ten years have passed."

Here in #2 it(Ten year's) modified by article that makes it countable. So there should be Has in both sentences of example #2. Correct me if i am wrong.

  • I would say "After ten years have passed" or "After a period of ten years has passed", but not: After ten years has passed. For me that's careless grammar, even if some speakers say so.
    – rogermue
    Dec 22, 2014 at 2:48
  • 1
    Your first question involves a measure phrase. Your second one involves a parsing where the article "a" is not the determiner for the matrix NP, e.g. "[a good] three hefty steaks" (CGEL pg 353, [70.iv]).
    – F.E.
    Dec 23, 2014 at 18:07
  • What is this CGEL? @F.E.
    – starun008
    Dec 23, 2014 at 19:32
  • CGEL is the 2002 reference grammar by Huddleston and Pullum et al., The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language.
    – F.E.
    Dec 23, 2014 at 20:41
  • I don't have this book now and i don't think i can buy this book. I can't afford it. It will cost me 15000 Indian rupee($250). Can you please refer me any other book?
    – starun008
    Dec 24, 2014 at 7:08

2 Answers 2


After ten years has passed you can apply for possession of the land.

Well, you basically answered this yourself. But I would express the usage as 'ten years' is considered singular.

As you noted, we use this in time phrases. We also use this in money phrases, such as 'Ten dollars is all I have.'

A short ten years has brought us to this point.

Here the same thing is happening. Ten years is considered singular, so both a singular verb and the indefinite article is used. (The indefinite article may only be used before count nouns, and count nouns are singular; that is, non-count nouns cannot be plural.)

I can also say

A ten years has passed that I will never forget.

Again, ten years is considered singular and so I can use a singular verb, and I can use the indefinite article before the singular 'ten years'.

The question seems to be about the following:

An arduous ten years have passed.

We know that with "arduous" we can say:

An arduous ten years has passed.

Ten years is considered singular, and the indefinite article may be used before a singular noun. In addition, an adjective may modify a singular noun.

So the question remains, can we say

An arduous ten years have passed.

Here, 'ten years' is considered plural, a plural form of the verb has been used, an adjective has been used, BUT an has been used. We know an goes only before singular nouns. So there does seem to be a conflict.

Despite this, the usage seems fine to me. There are other expressions in which we use the indefinite article an with in an expression that uses a plural verb form:

A good many days have passed.

A few days have passed.

A number of people are marching down the street.

A large number of complaints have been received.

A lot of horses recently have been coming around the mountain.

A hundred people have gone home after waiting an arduous ten years.

Pethaps it is possible that the idea of ten years being considered singular OR plural is similar to a collective noun (example: team, crowd, government) being considered singular or plural:

The team is unbeaten after playing ten games. (US)

The team are unbeaten after playing ten games. (UK)

Thus, maybe the following is possible:

? A lucky England football team have won the world cup.

I don't know if the above would actually be said (maybe the idea is too preposterous to consider). But the following has been said:

An eager team have knitted and crocheted 120 squares including 4 complete blankets.

  • All i understand is that we can use either has or have with time expression(except for time phrases like "a period of terms and if article modify it). Because sometimes it hard to know whether it is uses as a period or as a unit. Its up to speaker what he uses has or have.
    – starun008
    Dec 21, 2014 at 18:37
  • I understand all your example except A hundred people have gone home after waiting an arduous ten years. If i follow rules then there should be "has". But when i read this sentence five times, use of "have" seems correct.
    – starun008
    Dec 21, 2014 at 19:01
  • For standard grammar, it is "A hundred people have..." not "A hundred people has..."
    – user6951
    Dec 21, 2014 at 21:33
  • 1
    I haven't checked out everything here, but you definitely can't say "A ten years has passed that I will never forget" in my version of English (though I'd accept it with decade rather than ten years). Dec 23, 2014 at 15:16
  • There's good info in your post, but some of it is not quite right. :)
    – F.E.
    Dec 23, 2014 at 18:17
  1. This is ok if the writer wants to communicate about a period of 10 years, even if the words a period of are left out.

Such is a matter of style. It would generally be seen as good if the intended reader or listener understood that a single period was intended, and if it did not cause confusion or distraction in the target reader/listener, or in most such readers/listeners.

I would have no trouble with the sentence and would not need to stop and think about it.

  1. You are right. Technically, the writer or speaker should decide if it is a single time period, or multiple years, and set the article to match the number of the noun.

In reality, native speakers are often very fast to automatically realize if it makes any difference to understand it as a single time period or a number of individual years. In most cases like this, it does not matter. Accordingly, we will find a considerable number of such technical mistakes, even in language that may otherwise be very careful.

  • 1. after reading your explanation i re-look at my problem sentence (Ten years have passed - ten long, lonely years - since Bill died at sea). It seems We can has here because this is talking about a period of 10 years(since bill died).
    – starun008
    Dec 21, 2014 at 13:00
  • When i search on Google for sentence("An arduous ten years have passed".) i found one saying it is correct because "An" in such a construction does not make it singular. I don't understand what he want to say.
    – starun008
    Dec 21, 2014 at 13:09
  • @starun008, in your problem sentence, "have" is definitely correct. The second part of the sentence, "ten long, lonely years," makes it clear that it is talking about individual years, of which there were ten.
    – Jesse
    Dec 23, 2014 at 19:05

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