Words; More than one (phr.)

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The Independent Culture
GLANCING AT a fellow bus passenger's Daily Telegraph last week, I found myself grammatically challenged. "More than one centrist, female Labour MP," it said, "was called `bitch' behind her back."

More than one . . . was? Can that be right? Surely "more than one" is plural.

"A singular subject takes a singular verb and a plural subject takes a plural verb," Bill Bryson says in his delightful Penguin Dictionary of Troublesome Words. "Anyone who can distinguish between one and more than one shouldn't find that too sophisticated a challenge."

But the Telegraph was right. As Fowler says: "More than one, though its sense is necessarily plural, is treated as a sort of compound of one, and . . . takes a singular verb." How irritatingly illogical of it.

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