EDUCE Overview Copyright 2009 Nikolas S. Boyd.
All rights reserved.

Normal Number

Intent

Convert a plural subject (and its verb) to singular.

Motivation

People often express ideas as generalizations. Generalizations often use plural subjects. Plural subjects indicate collections, categories or classes. However, a plural subject often hides the true cardinality of the verb in a sentence. How many objects does a verb relate to its subject? The answer to this question helps determine the cardinality of the relationship (or action) expressed by a verb.

Applicability

Use normal number for a subject-verb combination when

Considerations

Plural subjects often obscure the cardinality of the relationship expressed by a verb. Also, a finite verb must agree with the number and person of its subject (subject-verb agreement). Thus, for a third person singular subject with a present tense verb, the verb must also be singular. Consider the following examples:

storage buildings store chemical drums (plural subject + verb)
a storage building stores chemical drums (singular subject + verb)
staff buildings house staff members (plural subject + verb)
a staff building houses staff members (singular subject + verb)

Object-oriented designs focus on relationships and collaborations between individuals. Object-oriented designs often use a basic metonymy as a source of design components: a single instance represents an entire category or class of individuals. So, a statement about a single individual is applied to all the instances of a class. Thus, object-oriented designers often use sentence subjects and objects as candidates for class names.

Consequences

A normal form sentence has a singular subject and a singular verb with a complete predicate, active voice, indicative mood, affirmative polarity, and appropriate tense.

After conversion, a sentence subject refers to a single instance using a singular noun or noun phrase. Converting the subject to singular often exposes whether the verb relates the subject to a single or to multiple instances of the direct and indirect objects in a sentence.

Notice that you can use an indefinite article (a or an) to indicate that the subject is an instance of a class. Also, notice that an indefinite pronoun (each) can be used to retain a stronger indication that the subject is a member of a collection.

Singular subjects support the identification of stable concepts. When several nuclear sentences contain the same subject, they collectively reveal how the subject relates to other objects and concepts. These relational connections to other concepts help to stabilize the conception of a subject.