I was reminded of this as I was reading a paper by Barbara Seidlhofer and Henry Widdowson in a recent book edited by Kumiko Murata and Jennifer Jenkins (Global Englishes in Asian Contexts: Current and Future Debates, Continuum, 2009).
Here is an abstract from page 32 of their paper:
the use of these phrases also serve to establish rapport ...Note the use of serve which fails to agree with use, the singular noun that is the head of the subject. Traditionally, we would expect serves rather than serve.
I have a number of questions about this:
- Did Seidlhofer and Widdowson notice this but decide to keep it anyway?
- Did the editors notice it and decide to leave it, in keeping with a policy of being tolerant about variation in English?
- Is this becoming the norm in English now, so maybe proximity is the deciding factor in the inflection of the verb (i.e. the plural phrases overrides the singular use because it is closer to the verb)?
- Is this something I should allow my students to do?